Mike Hodge was attacked by a lion at Marakele Animal Sanctuary after entering the big cat's enclosure to investigate a strange odor
The owner of a South Africa safari park was attacked by one of his lion wards.
According to Daily Mail, Mike Hodge, the 72-year-old owner of Marakele Animal Sanctuary in Thabazimbi, South Africa, was mauled by a lion at his park after he entered the animal’s enclosure to investigate a strange odor that was agitating the lion. Video was captured of the shocking incident by one of the park’s guests.
Footage shows Hodge walking towards the exit of the enclosure when he is suddenly pursued by the male big cat. The park owner tries to exit the metal door but is grabbed by the animal near the neck and dragged deeper into the enclosure. Onlookers can be heard throughout the video screaming in distress, with some also calling for help. Eventually, a shot is fired, likely from the game warden, which causes the lion to drop Hodge.
After the attack, Hodge was rushed to Mediclinic Hospital with neck and jaw injuries, reports The Sun.
“There is no information coming out of the hospital but all I know is that he is alive and his wife and daughter are with him,” an unnamed female friend of Hodge told The Sun. “I do not know how badly hurt he is, but he is a lovely guy and I wish him all the best.”
The Daily Mail reports that Hodge is recovering and even sent a photo of himself smiling from his hospital. The lion involved in the mauling is believed to have been put down.
According to the Marakele Animal Sanctuary website, Hodge and his wife Chrissy moved to South Africa from the UK in 1999, starting a “lion project” in 2003. The project then expanded into a safari park open to tourists several years later. The park offers overnight accommodations and rides in something called a “lion mobile” — a caged truck that drives through the lion park, allowing the animals to jump on the vehicle with guests inside.
The park is currently closed following the attack, reports Daily Mail.
While online commenters have scolded Hodge for getting so close to the big cat, the park owner’s friend said that Hodge would never put himself into a situation he thought was dangerous.
“He is no fool around lions and knows how to interact with them but clearly something went wrong,” she told The Sun.
PEOPLE has not yet received a response for a comment from Marakele Animal Sanctuary about the attack.