Swan Van Wyke was mauled to death by lions while performing her zookeeper duties.
Swan Van Wyke was mauled to death by lions while performing her zookeeper duties.

21-year-old zookeeper mauled to death

Pictures have emerged of the young 21-year-old zookeeper that was mauled to death at a private game reserve in Limpopo Province, South Africa.

Swane van Wyke was described as an animal lover who worked with lions at the reserve near Bela Bela.

The name of the reserve has not been revealed by authorities, but Ms van Wyke's Facebook page lists her place of employment as Zwartkloof Private Game Reserve.

Ms Van Wyke was found with deep bites and claw wounds.
Ms Van Wyke was found with deep bites and claw wounds.

The reserve also lists the young woman as their game manager on the website.

According to the website, the reserve hosts sport and adventure camps and has free-roaming animals plus several white and tawny lions in enclosures.

It is believed the young woman was going about her duties when she was attacked by an unspecified number of lions.

Ms van Wyke somehow managed to escape the cage, and her screams alerted staff who found her collapsed by the gate.

It is unknown how many lions were involved in the attack.
It is unknown how many lions were involved in the attack.

Despite paramedics' best efforts, she was declared dead at the scene, reports local media.

A police investigation has been launched and an inquest opened at the game lodge.

"Our initial investigations show she was performing her duties when attacked by an unknown number of lions," said South African Police spokesman Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe.

The police said the attack was a matter for the game reserve and the authorities that monitor reserves in the country.

Friends have organised a memorial for the zookeeper to be held on Friday, February 14.
Friends have organised a memorial for the zookeeper to be held on Friday, February 14.

The reserve has closed its gates to the public, and it is understood that all staff and colleagues who witnessed the aftermath of the attack would be offered counselling and time off to recover from the trauma.

Captured in Africa founder Drew Abrahamson told SAPeople that it was sad that another innocent life had been lost due to the confinement of lions in the country.

"Whilst the world's conservation, wildlife and tourism professionals have long denounced this diabolical breeding industry, it's further saddening to see that South African authorities continue to allow this unnatural industry to continue," he said.

In August last year, a game lodge owner was mauled to death when he went into his own lion enclosure to fix a broken fence.

Leon van Biljon was known as "the lion man", and the three lions responsible for the attack were shot dead afterwards.

There were two other reported attacks in May last year, with both men managing to escape death despite suffering horrific injuries.

"We hope authorities truly begin to understand the abuse, the implications and the negative reputation that this industry is bringing to our beautiful country of South Africa," Mr Abrahamson said.