A 22-year-old woman visiting Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary, home of The Lion Whisperer, was mauled to death by a lioness Tuesday as she and a friend were visiting the private South African game reserve, the Pretoria East Rekord reported.
The incident occurred around 11 a.m. at the game reserve near the Dinokeng Nature Reserve in Hammanskraal, located about an hour northeast of Johannesburg.
Constable Connie Moganedi, a Cullinan police spokesperson, told the Pretoria East Rekord that the pair was walking to their vehicle when the lioness attacked from behind. Emergency services were immediately summoned.
“When Netcare 911 paramedics arrived at the scene, bystanders had initiated CPR,” Netcare 911 spokesperson Nick Dollman told the Rekord. “Tragically the victim had sustained injuries so severe she died at the scene.”
Richardson explained in a Facebook post what happened:
“Myself and an experienced colleague took three lions walking in the Reserve, as we do on a weekly basis, as part of their exercise and stimulation regiment. We assessed the landscape for other big 5 animals and as per procedure sent out a notification that we were walking in the reserve. One of the lionesses charged off after an Impala and must have run 2,0 to 2,5km where she encountered the 22-year-old outside the car.”
The woman was accompanying a friend who was conducting an interview for an assignment with the camp’s manager, and they were taking photos outside the camp when the attack happened.
Richardson, a South African animal behaviorist specializing in lions, is known throughout the world as The Lion Whisperer and has been featured in many documentaries, movies and commercials.
There are a plethora of photos and videos showing Richardson interacting with lions at the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary.
“The Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary’s mission is to provide a self-sustaining African carnivore sanctuary for the purposes of wild species preservation through education, awareness and funding, especially pertaining to the rapid decline of large carnivores in Africa due to habitat loss, human-predator conflict, the illegal bush meat trade, unscrupulous hunting, disease and their illegal trade,” the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary website says.
“The sanctuary is made up of 13 predator enclosures and a large central enrichment area to which the predators are rotated through every couple of weeks,” the website says.
The sanctuary offers volunteer opportunities, saying, “You will enjoy the spectacular African bush and come face-to-face with majestic lions and hear their magnificent roars at night.”
It is unclear what access visitors have to the lions.
The latest video by The Lion Whisperer from a few days ago highlights the past six months at Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary:
Originally, Mandy Richardson, wife of Kevin, declined to comment and wouldn’t confirm or deny to the Rekord that the attack occurred at their sanctuary, but the owner of the nearby Dinokeng Nature Reserve confirmed that it did.
“I am devastated and my heart goes out to this young woman’s family,” Richardson wrote on the Facebook post, which added, “We are deeply saddened and shocked by the death of a 22-year-old woman at our tented camp in The Dinokeng Big 5 Game Reserve. Our condolences and heartfelt sympathies go out to her family at this very difficult time.”