The lion that mauled the owner of a private game reserve in Limpopo over the weekend was killed during the incident.

Mike Hodge, the owner of Marakele Animal Sanctuary, is recovering in hospital after the attack, having sustained injuries to his neck and jaw.

In a statement, the family said the incident was a ‘double-tragedy’ as Shamba, 10, had been hand-raised since birth.

The family said that on Saturday morning at around 11.20am‚ Hodge‚ 72‚ was doing what he loves most – sharing his love for predators with visitors to his private sanctuary just outside Thabazimbi in Limpopo.

Hodge alighted from the safari vehicle to open the gate to exit after he had shown visitors around. The family said as a precaution‚ a staff member routinely ensured that Shamba was distracted and removed from the gate area.

“This can clearly be seen in the video as the staff member walks away from the tourists along the perimeter fence. Unexpectedly and unfortunately‚ the male lion returned and chased Mike who retreated – running towards the vehicle‚” the family said in a statement.

The lion dragged Hodge from the vehicle and the lion was fatally injured in the ensuing attempt to save Hodge.

Hodge’s wife and partner in the project Chrissy was in town during the incident and daughter Emma was at the main gate.

“Mike was rushed to the local hospital and stabilised before being airlifted to a Johannesburg hospital. He has a broken jaw and several lacerations‚ but is recovering well‚” Chrissy said. She said her husband’s recovery process would be long and arduous.

She said this had been a double tragedy for the family. “The entire family is devastated by the loss of Shamba‚” Chrissy said.

The family moved to South Africa from the UK 30 years ago and opened the sanctuary to the public in 2010.

The family have asked for privacy during this traumatic time.