Three lions have been shot dead after a 70-year-old game keeper – who reportedly raised the animals as cubs – was fatally mauled in South Africa, according to local media reports.

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The man, named by news outlets as Leon van Biljon, is thought to have been fixing a broken fence in the animals’ enclosure and had his back to the big cats when one went for his neck, according to Netwerk24.

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The fatal attack took place at the Mahala View Lion Game Lodge in Cullinan, east of the capital Pretoria.

Best Care Ambulance Service spokesman Xander Loubser confirmed to News24 that Mr van Biljon – reportedly known as “The Lion Man” – owned a number of the big cats at the lodge.

The game keeper is said to have died by the time paramedics arrived.

The lions were shot dead by staff members at the lodge following the incident, News24 reported.

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Mr Loubser said the decision to shoot the lions “was made by people on the premises in order to get to the deceased” and that the incident was “now a police matter”.

Cullinan police’s Constable Connie Moganedi said officers visited the lodge following the attack.

She told News24 a caretaker had seen Mr van Biljon being mauled by the lions and shouted for help before neighbours rushed to assist.

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According to the Mahala View Lion Game Lodge website, there are three lions – named Rambo, Nakita and Katryn – at the retreat, which offers visitors eight self-catering chalets.

It says the animals “will capture the imagination of anyone visiting” and that Mr van Biljon offered “exclusive lion lectures, feedings and game drives for guests”.

Sky News has contacted the lodge for comment.

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