Lion park tem­po­rar­ily closed af­ter at­tack

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - NEWS - Ernest Mabuza

THE Marakele an­i­mal sanc­tu­ary in Thabaz­imbi has been closed tem­po­rar­ily as the fam­ily of the owner‚ mauled by his lion Shamba‚ are in Jo­han­nes­burg to mon­i­tor his hos­pi­tal treat­ment.

The Hodge fam­ily de­nied a news­pa­per re­port yes­ter­day from The Times of London that the sanc­tu­ary had been closed down as a re­sult of threats and abuse.

Michael Hodge‚ 72‚ was se­ri­ously in­jured on Satur­day by the 10-year-old lion he had hand-reared from birth. The in­ci­dent was cap­tured on video.

Hodge en­tered an en­clo­sure where Shamba was and could not get out in time as the lion un­ex­pect­edly at­tacked him. The lion was killed as rangers tried to ex­tri­cate Hodge from the lion.

Hodge took vis­i­tors on a “lion mo­bile” where they could get close up with Shamba‚ an ac­tiv­ity which had been crit­i­cised by con­ser­va­tion­ists.

“It is a tem­po­rary clo­sure as his fam­ily is in Jo­han­nes­burg to mon­i­tor Mike’s con­di­tion‚” Hodge fam­ily spokes­woman Ber­nadette Maguire said yes­ter­day.

She said there had been no threats made against the fam­ily.

Maguire also said it would take longer for Hodge to heal. “His wounds are open. “They have not been able to close his wounds for fear of in­fec­tion‚” Maguire said.

She said he was strug­gling to eat be- cause his jaw was bro­ken.

“It is go­ing to be a long road to re­cov­ery.

“Although the lion in­flicted se­ri­ous dam­age‚ it did not dam­age ma­jor ar­ter­ies‚” Maguire said.

The camp’s ac­tiv­i­ties have been un­der at­tack from con­ser­va­tion­ists‚ who said wild an­i­mals be­longed in the wild and cap­tive an­i­mal breed­ing had no con­ser­va­tion value.

In its pro­mo­tion on its web­site‚ the sanc­tu­ary prom­ises that for R70 an adult and R30 a child‚ guests can visit the camp in a “lion mo­bile” car where Shamba will “jump up and look you in the eyes. He also sits on top of the truck whilst we take the drive through the camp.”

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