Mike Hodge, 72, from Wilmslow in Cheshire, moved from the UK with his wife Chrissy and her daughter Emma in 1999.

The Brits started their own lion project in 2003 before opening the Marakele Animal Sanctuary in Thabaziambi in December, 2010.

Following the success of the park, the three Brits created the Predator Centre within the sanctuary which would include at least a dozen big cats.

Despite her young age, Emma helped Mike and Chrissy raise the animals including white lions, cheetahs and two Bengali tigers.

Now aged 29, the British-born “child of Africa” co-runs the sanctuary with her step-dad.


In a video clip posted on YouTube, Emma is seen handling two white lion cubs and speaking in detail of the difficulty in breeding them.

She tells the cameraman that she will hand-raise the eight-week-old lions before saying that both the cubs’ parents were also reared at Marakele.

Emma reveals that the mother’s “birth passage was too small” which made it hard for them to breed the babies.

The 29-year-old, who Chrissy had from a previous marriage, had an idyllic childhood growing up as a teenager in Africa surrounded by lions and leopards and tigers.

Her Facebook shows many happy pictures of her playing with big cats from when they were cubs through to fully grown predators.

She was working on the main gate when her step-dad was mauled and has been at his hospital bedside since the attack.

Following the attack, it has emerged that Mike he hand-reared the male lion named Shamba who mauled him on Saturday.

He said he is “devastated” that the animal was shot and killed during the incident.

Mike is currently “recovering well” in a Johannesburg hospital after suffering a “broken jaw and several lacerations.”

The family are said to have been left “traumatised” by the incident.

In the footage, the lion spots Mike after he enters its enclosure and chases him towards the metal door of the facility.

In astonishing scenes, the elderly park owner is dragged like a rag doll towards some bushes.

A source close to the family aid Mike was very experience and is "not the sort of person to showboat."

Speaking with The Sun Online, a friend of Mike, who does not want to be named, revealed that the park owner was investigating a smell in the lion’s enclosure when the predator attacked him.

She said: “Mike and one of his rangers were a little concerned about a smell in a compound that was upsetting one of the lions and had gone in through the gate to see what was causing it.

"He is no fool around lions and knows how to interact with them but clearly something went wrong."

On the wildlife park’s website, customers are promised that Shamba “will jump up and look you in the eyes” as part of the safari tour.

The sanctuary offers a “lion mobile” tour which allows to guests to get close to the predators.

Marakele’s website describes the tour saying: "I can promise you that Shamba will jump up and look you in the eyes, he also sits on the top of the truck whilst we take the drive through the camp."


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