Ranger hands it to leopard

2003-12-19 21:28

Malelane - A Kruger National Park ranger shoved his left hand into a leopard's mouth to prevent the animal from biting him further while shooting it, using his right hand, the KNP said on Friday.

Bruce Leslie, a section ranger, received reports about a possible problem leopard in the vicinity of the staff accommodation complex near Malelane and went to investigate at around 17:00 on Thursday, park spokesperson Raymond Travers said.

"When he reached the approximate area where the leopard was last seen, Leslie saw his dog, which was ahead of him, freeze and look in the direction of the bush.

"He quickly got to that position and looked in that direction, only to look straight into the eyes of a leopard, only about 10m away from him," Travers said.

"At that instant, the leopard leapt towards him and he shoved his left hand into the leopard's mouth to prevent it biting him further while firing his R1 rifle at the animal with his right hand."

The leopard bit into the index finger of Leslie's left hand and clawed the ranger's legs with its hind paws before becoming limp.

"I realised then that I had probably killed the leopard," Leslie told Travers from his bed at Nelspruit Medi Clinic on Thursday night.

His condition was described as stable. Doctors operated on his left hand on Friday.

A post mortem on the adult female leopard indicated that it had a broken jaw at the time of the attack and was not in a good condition.

Skukuza veterinary surgeon Lin-Mari de Klerk said: "It was bitten by another animal, which broke its lower jaw bone and it had not eaten for at least four days because of this injury."

In August this year, a leopard killed a nine-year-old boy, Tshikani Nobela, who was walking in an unfenced staff village at Skukuza.

A woman suffered a similar fate two years earlier while jogging in the village.

In May, park ranger Joseph Mathebula was attacked by a leopard while he was in the veld checking a herd of antelope for foot-and-mouth disease.

He managed to kill the animal with an axe.

A leopard jumped at Henry van Eck, a private tour guide, in an open game-viewing vehicle near Satara in September and bit him on his arms and legs. The leopard was summarily culled, which sparked an outcry at the time.

In a subsequent report on the incident, SA National Parks said it had concluded that the leopard was accustomed to humans, possibly from having been fed before, and posed a threat to the safety of visitors and staff.