HARARE, Zimbabwe — A pride of lions fatally mauled a tourist while he showered under a tree as darkness fell at an unfenced campsite in a nature reserve, a conservationist said yesterday.
Five lions attacked Peter Evershed, a 59-year-old Zimbabwean businessman, at the Chitake Springs bush camp, a wildlife viewing area near the Mana Pools nature reserve, said Johnny Rodrigues, Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force head.
Family and friends heard Evershed scream and raced to the showers, but he was already dead from a gash to the throat, Rodrigues said.
The lions retreated only after a safari operator pulled up in a vehicle with its headlights on and fired shots into the air, Rodrigues told Zimbabwe Herald Online.
Rodrigues said a surge in hunting amid Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown has made animals more “traumatized’’ and dangerous to humans, though lions are generally not killed by poachers.
“We appeal to everyone to exercise extreme caution. Animals have become extremely unpredictable,’’ Rodrigues said.
Witnesses say three elephants and three buffalo were illegally killed to feed participants at a political meeting of President Robert Mugabe’s party in western Zimbabwe last month. The military, meanwhile, has denied witness reports it is shooting wildlife in “Operation Nyama,’’ or Operation Meat in the local language, to feed soldiers.
Last month, Don Hornsby, a South African business executive, was killed by an elephant in the nearby Matusadona preserve. Hornsby had helped fund feeding programs for orphaned animals.
Shortly before Hornsby’s death, veteran conservationist Steve Kok died when a wounded buffalo charged him as he was destroying traps and wire snares laid by poachers.
And in September, businessman Geoff Blythe was attacked by a female elephant as he rode a bicycle ride near his home in the lakeside town of Kariba. He barely survived the nightmarish encounter, which occurred in an area normally considered safe from marauding animals.