5 Lions Maul Man to Death at Campsite in Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Lions attacked and killed a tourist while he was showering at an unfenced campsite in a nature reserve, and such fatal encounters are on the rise because of poaching, a conservationist said Thursday.

Peter Evershed, a 59-year-old Zimbabwean businessman, was mauled by five lions while showering under a tree at the Chitake Springs bush camp, a wildlife viewing area, near the Mana Pools nature reserve, said Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force head Johnny Rodrigues.

Evershed was the last of his group of family and friends to take a shower as darkness fell on Saturday. They 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.

"We appeal to everyone to exercise extreme caution. Animals have become extremely unpredictable," Rodrigues said, adding that a surge in poaching has made animals more "traumatized" and dangerous to humans.

Last month, South African business executive Don Hornsby was killed by an elephant in the nearby Matusadona preserve. Hornsby had helped fund feeding programs for orphaned animals.

"Due to the poaching and number of elephants being shot, they have become even more dangerous," Rodrigues told The Associated Press. Elephants are notoriously skittish if under threat.

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.

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, 230 miles northwest of Harare. He barely survived the nightmarish encounter in an area normally considered safe from marauding animals.

Blythe, also a volunteer in conservation programs, told family and friends he tried to pedal as fast as he could from the cow elephant and her calf but the bike chain dislodged. He dumped the bike and ran but there were no trees or powerline towers near enough to climb. He threw himself into a gully of soft sand as the elephant overtook him. The elephant gored him in the back and thigh and kicked him into thorny bushes before backing off. Blythe, hospitalized fo9r life threatening wounds, also suffered cuts and fractured ribs.

"He was lucky to escape with his life," Rodrigues said.