Wild animal lovers who were brutally mauled to death by pet lions and hippos

The world of wild animal ownership is as strange as it is terrifying, with cautionary tales of the relationship between man and beast lurking around every corner.

Animal lovers often go to great lengths to delude themselves that the ferocious wild animal they have locked in their garden shed is domesticated, but these grisly tales suggest otherwise.

Whether it's turning your back on a lion or overestimating the bond between man and hippo, many animal owners have made fatal mistakes in the course of keeping their pets.

We took a look through them to find some of the most shocking incidents of all time.

Marius Els

A heart-warming friendship between a man a hippo ended in tragedy when the beloved pet mauled his owner to death on a South African farm.

Marius Els had raised Humphrey the hippo since he was five years old after rescuing him from a flood.

For years the two were inseparable, with Marius training him to swim with humans and even brushing his teeth.

However, throughout 2011 many people close to Marius and his hippo noticed a change in Humphrey’s behaviour as he became more aggressive.

Marius’ wife Louise sensed the danger and warned her husband, but it was too late.

In November 2011, Humphrey attacked Marius and brutally bit him to death.

The farmer was discovered completely submerged in the river where Humphrey had been rescued six years earlier.

He had suffered horrific bite marks and terrible injuries consistent with being attacked by the most dangerous mammal on earth.

Kelci Saffery

2020 will be forever be associated with the coronavirus pandemic and Netflix’s The Tiger King which explored the world of American private zoos.

The series was set in Joe Exotic’s GW Zoo – home to hundreds of big cats.

The cameras followed the now-convicted felon Joe Exotic throughout the congested world of big cat zoos, where cages are often filled with multiple ravenous beasts.

In one memorable episode, the documentary crew explored the horrific injury of park employee Kelci “Saff” Saffery who had her arm ripped off by one of the captive tigers.

The GW employee was attacked after putting an arm through a cage and a big cat tried to rip it off.

As Saff tried to pull the arm out, the skin was ripped by the metal on the cage.

Saff was offered the opportunity of either an amputation or two years of reconstructive surgery.

The zoo worker decided to lose the arm and return to work.

Amazingly the tiger which attacked Saff wasn’t put down but just moved off the park and no longer interacted with the public.

Kathy and Al Abell

An American couple’s dream of living with the animals they admired turned into a nightmare when their pet lion went rogue.

Al and Kathy Abell set up their own exhibition facility named Cougar Bluff in their Illinois home in 1999 and collected a range of wild animals.

At their peak, the couple owned wolves, pumas, a bobcat and an enormous African lion.

Tragically in February 2004, Al was attacked and fatally mauled by the lion while he was changing its bedding in its cage.

It then left the cage and killed the couple’s pet dogs before resting on the porch.

When Kathy returned home and saw what had happened she called the police who arrived and shot the lion dead as they didn’t have any tranquilliser darts.

Heartbreakingly, Kathy never fully recovered from the trauma of losing her husband and committed suicide in 2010.

Norman Buwalda

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A man who fought a court battle to retain the right to keep exotic animals after one of them mauled a child was eventually killed himself – by one of his tigers.

Norman Buwalda, 66, from Southwald, Canada, had been forced to fight against a bylaw enacted by the local community after a 10-year-old boy was savaged by one of his tigers.

After he successfully defeated the bill in the Supreme Court of Canada, he continued to care for his big cats including a 661 pound pet Siberian tiger which would ultimately kill him.

Mr Buwalda walked into the deadly cat's cage to feed it when he was pounced upon in June 2010.

A family member found his mutilated remains and managed to separate the animal from its fatally-wounded owner.

Following his death, the tiger was taken away and rehomed and Buwalda’s collection was disbanded.

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