West Mathewson (68) was a conservationist with an unbridled love for his lions.

Well-known conservationist and animal lover, West Mathewson (68) was killed in a tragic incident at his home on the premises of Lion Tree Top Lodge outside Hoedspruit this morning. Affectionately known as “Uncle West” by the locals, West kept two white lionesses on his property. Demi and Tanner were rescued from a canned lion hunting farm outside Polokwane a few years ago and West hand-reared them as cubs.

West Mathewson and his beloved Demi and Tanner.

Each morning he would take them out of their enclosure and spend time exercising with them. This morning, the 26th of August, he unlocked the gate as he usually did and started playing with his beloved cats. Though it is not certain what happened, it is believed that one of the lionesses’ instincts took over and she mauled West who later passed away from his injuries.

Bulletin is in touch with his family and they will be releasing an official media statement later this afternoon. He leaves behind his wife, Gill (65), their four sons Jamie, Wayne, Westie and Nick, and their grandchildren Megan, Montanna, Tristan, Miquel, Hagan and Emily.