The father of two-year-old Courtney Ntimane, who was attacked by a leopard in the Kruger National Park on Wednesday, has described his pain over the horrific attack, saying he keeps getting flashbacks, The Star reported on Friday.
Courtney was killed after a leopard bit the toddler at the staff living quarters on Wednesday evening, News24 reported.
The incident took place at the Malelane technical services living quarters. Doctors later certified the boy dead at Shongwe Hospital in Mpumalanga.
The boy's father, 35-year-old Isaiah Ntimane, who works as a water operator in the park, told The Star on Thursday that his wife and son had come from Bushbuckridge to visit him at work, and that they were having a braai when the incident happened.
"I was walking to my cottage and he [Courtney] followed me. I didn’t notice that he was behind me, because I left him there playing with his mother’s phone. And just when I got to my cottage and was closing the door behind me, I heard screams coming from outside," he reportedly said.
Ntimane reportedly said that he rushed out to see what the commotion was about and found his son hanging from the leopard's jaws. He said the animal attempted to drag Courtney over the fence, but failed and dropped the bleeding child, before disappearing into the bushes.
'The memory is painful'
"We rushed him to Shongwe Hospital, but when we arrived he was already dead. They put him on a bed, and I looked into his eyes and saw no sign of life," Ntimane told The Star.
Ntimane added that it was hard for him and his wife.
"I cannot even leave my cottage or go to work, because when I walk out, I get flashbacks of what happened. The memory of it all is painful," Ntimane reportedly said.
Fundisile Mketeni, chief executive officer of South African National Parks, extended his condolences to the family: "Our prayers are with the family during this trying time. We wish them strength and will give them all the support they need as an organisation," News24 reported.
Leopard shot dead
The park said it was "an unfortunate risk that staff experience when having to live and work in environments like the KNP. These events are very rare occurrences, but always tragic when they do occur".
It said that a team of rangers had hunted the leopard down and shot it.
"Immediately upon hearing of the incident, the section ranger, his lance corporal - with help from the regional ranger - went out to search for the animal. The offending animal was found and shot dead to remove the danger of another person falling victim.
"In parks like the KNP, predators do interact with tourists and staff, and at times it may result in species like leopard getting habituated to people and losing their fear," the park said.