According to her family, she hoped to make a film about the dangers of the poaching crisis in Africa and the threat it poses to the country's wildlife.

By Erin Hill
Updated June 04, 2015 03:00 PM
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The heartbroken mother of Katherine Chappell, the woman mauled to death by a lion in South Africa on Monday, says “everyone who met her loved her.”

Mary Chappell, of Rye, New York, said of her spirited daughter: “She lived a life of adventure – she loved traveling, she was full of life.

Katherine – known as Katie to her friends – lived an extraordinary life, her mother told The Westchester County, N.Y. Journal News. She taught herself Japanese and traveled the world with her Australian boyfriend, Grayson Hoare. Her mother added that she had a soft spot for animals and the family adopted many rescue dogs.

Katherine also hoped to one day make a film about the dangers of the poaching crisis in Africa and the threat it poses to the country’s wildlife.

Friends and family will gather at a wake tomorrow, ahead of a memorial service on Saturday at the Graham Funeral Home in Rye.

Katherine was set to begin a two-week stint volunteering on a wildlife preserve in South Africa when she was attacked by a lion. The New York native had arrived in the country a week early so she could sightsee, her mother said.

The visual effects editor was riding in the passenger seat of an SUV at Lion Park – a wildlife park located between Johannesburg and Pretoria that offers self-driven and guided tours. She was taking photos when the lion jumped through the open window and attacked her.

The lion that attacked Katherine had been mating and had cubs with her at the time of the attack.

“They had their windows all the way down, which is strictly against policy,” Scott Simpson, assistant operations manager at Lion Park told the Associated Press. “The lion bit the lady through the window.”

Park staff members were able to chase the lion away, while Katherine received treatment from emergency services.

She died while paramedics were attempting to help her, Simpson told USA Today. According to Simpson, opening windows is against park policy, and there are numerous signs around the park – in addition to leaflets given to visitors – to reinforce those policies.

Lion Park was featured in a November 60 Minutes story as one of dozens of parks in South Africa where tourists pay to pet lion cubs. The story alleged that once these lions reach maturity, they are sold off for “canned hunts” – where people pay to shoot lions in an enclosed area – as they are too dangerous to be around tourists.

This was the third major cat attack in the park in six months, according to CBS News.

Katherine worked on a special effects team that won an Emmy for work on the HBO television series Game of Thrones.

Katherine was one of four children and a 2008 graduate of Hofstra University. She had been living in Vancouver, British Columnbia, and working for the special effects company ScanLine VFX.

In a statement to PEOPLE, ScanLine VFX said: “Kate was a valued member of our team and we are devastated by the loss. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family.”

In addition to her work on Game of Thrones, Katherine also worked on Divergent, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and many other films and TV series.

Her sister, Jennifer, paid tribute in a Facebook post Tuesday.

We are broken-hearted to share this news with our friends and family. Yesterday morning, while on a volunteer mission to protect wildlife in South Africa, Kate Chappell was involved in a tragic and fatal accident, Jennifer Chappell wrote.

Katie was a brilliant, kind, adventurous and high-spirited woman. Her energy and passion could not be contained by mere continents or oceans. She was very much loved and shared her love for life with those she met,” the statement continued. We cannot thank everyone enough for the kind words and support. It means the world to us during this difficult time.