'It wasn’t the leopard’s fault': Mother of six-year-old attacked and dragged through the bush by leopard pours out her heart

By Jana van der Merwe
06 May 2016

Six-year-old Kellan nearly died when he was attacked and dragged for several metres by a leopard on a private game farm in Limpopo.

The mother of six-year-old Kellan Denny from Johannesburg finds it hard to believe that her youngest child is back at school just more than a week after he nearly died when he was attacked and dragged for several metres by a leopard on a private game farm in Limpopo.

“I still can’t believe it!” a devastated Karen Denny (39) told YOU. “He’s a very lucky little man!" she added in an exclusive telephone interview on Thursday, describing her son’s miraculous survival and recovery.

Kellan sustained injuries to his back and neck and had to receive stitches on the left side of his back and shoulder where the male leopard had attacked him. Karen says the bite wounds were about 2 cm deep but the bruises are up to 12 cm deep.

The bite wounds were about 2 cm deep but the bruises are up to 12 cm deep. PHOTO: Supplied The bite wounds were about 2 cm deep but the bruises are up to 12 cm deep. PHOTO: Supplied

Although the boy’s still taking painkillers and receiving trauma counselling in the form of play therapy, she and her husband, Justin (42), have decided it would be best for him to return to his previous routine as soon as possible.

“We as adults realise the magnitude of what could have happened --  how close the injuries were to Kellan’s spine, how close to the main artery in his neck... But Kellan is still so young, he doesn’t really realise it all.

"But that’s a good thing; it makes it less traumatic for him. Kids are far more resilient; it is actually something we can learn from them.”

Read more: Leopard filmed licking, nudging baby impala

Karen says Kellan, his dad and older brother, Kai (8), were on a break at the Ntsiri private game reserve near Hoedspruit when the attack occurred last Tuesday afternoon. Karen had stayed behind in Johannesburg because of work commitments.

Justin and the kids had arrived at the reserve, where they have a timeshare unit, on the Monday evening.

“My husband has been visiting the reserve ever since he was a toddler. We are all very bush savvy. He and the children had a relaxing morning and the kids were played close to the house when the leopard struck shortly after lunch.”

Karen says they’re aware that wild animals roam the area but something like this has never happened and is most unusual.

Kellan is still taking painkillers and receiving trauma counselling in the form of play therapy Kellan is still taking painkillers and receiving trauma counselling in the form of play therapy. PHOTO: Supplied

“Wild animals are more scared of you than you are of them. Except perhaps an inquisitive hyena or monkey, they don’t come near there. Maybe the leopard confused Kellan for a monkey because he had been climbing on the low wall and a nearby tree.”

The leopard suddenly appeared out of nowhere and grabbed Kellan right in front of his dad.

Beeld newspaper reported that three holidaymakers heard a noise and rushed to the scene. The leopard had grabbed Kellan by the shoulder and dragged him about 30 m into the bush.

With all the noise his dad was making, and “by the Grace of God”, they manage to scare it off and the animal miraculously let go of Kellan. The leopard hasn’t been put down.

Read more: Horrific video emerges of leopard attacking guide in Kruger Park

Karen confirmed reports that a doctor and nurse who were on holiday on the farm treated Kellan on the scene.

“I find it quite shocking that there are no private medical facilities, but they managed to treat Kellan’s wounds there and give him the necessary shots for rabies among other things”.

On Wednesday morning she took the first available flight from OR Tambo International Airport and joined her family in Hoedspruit. On Thursday she returned home with them.

Because of the high risk of infection they decided to take Kellan to Johannesburg for further treatment in a local hospital.

“We can only thank God that Kellan’s story had a happy ending. There reserve is our happy place. We will most probably return. Of course one will now be even more cautious. We want to go back there with Kellan; we don’t want him to harbour fear for the rest of his life. It wasn’t the leopard’s fault.”

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