Terrifying moment man is attacked by lion in front of screaming onlookers

In split seconds the animal has taken hold of the elderly man dragging him like a rag dog across the ground

Hodge, who founded the sanctuary with his wife Chrissy and stepdaughter Emma in 2010, was reportedly investigating a odd smell that had been upsetting the lion.

In the footage, the lion sees Mike after he enters its enclosure and chases him towards the gate.

A friend of Mr Hodge told The Sun the sanctuary owner entered the lion compound to investigate a odd smell.

Screams then erupt from onlookers as Mike is dragged across the grass, unable to move.

British man Mike Hodge, 67, was rushed to hospital after suffering wounds to his neck and jaw after the incident at Makarele Predator Centre in Thabazimbi.

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Nearly instantly the big cat spots the elderly man, believed to be the owner of the park, and gives chase.

The animal park's website states Mike and Chrissy Hodge moved to South Africa from the United Kingdom in 1999 and opened their lion project in 2003.

At the time, Hodge who owned the wildlife park along with a park ranger had become concerned about fissure emanating from the enclosure.

The lion is finally scared away by gunshots, leaving the man's motionless body lying in the bushes.

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

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One of 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Columbia is released at its final destination: an animal sanctuary in South Africa's Limpopo province.

In the background a man can be heard shouting 'get a rifle'.

Debbie Wagner said: "So sad that the lion is only doing what comes naturally to him".

Shamba was killed after the attack, a family friend, Bernadette Maguire, told The Telegraph.

Bystanders filming the encounter captured the moment that the big cat suddenly turned on Mike Hodge, grabbing him and pulling him to the ground as the keeper tried to flee.

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