Hippo attack was sensationalised - Victim

Johannesburg - Jessica the tame hippopotamus would never intentionally hurt a person, a man who was reportedly attacked by the animal said on Tuesday.

"I worked with her for two years, she knows me and I did the tours with the people," Stephen Jansen van Rensburg said.

"There is no way that she will hurt anybody intentionally, maybe by accident, I mean look at my hand but never intentionally. Wish these people will stop sensationalising it."

Jansen van Rensburg said a report in the Beeld newspaper on Tuesday was sensationalising the incident that happened on Saturday when he put his hand in the 14-year-old hippopotamus's mouth.

Beeld reported that paramedics on the scene said Jansen van Rensburg was swimming with his girlfriend and friends when Jessica made a dash for them. His hand was bitten while he wrestled with Jessica and tried to stop her.

Paramedic Pieter Papdorf was quoted as saying Jessica's owners were more worried about the traumatised Jessica than the bleeding Jansen van Rensburg and took her to a quiet place where they massaged her to calm her down.

"He bled a lot. His left thumb was hanging on skin. The muscle was torn and the rest of his hand was badly injured," he was quoted as saying.

However, Jansen van Rensburg said it looked worse than it was. He said he put his hand in Jessica's mouth and she closed her mouth and a small tusk pierced the webbed part of his left hand between his thumb and index finger.

"My thumb is definitely not hanging. A small piece of skin is the only thing that is missing, it is not that serious at all. It looked way more serious," he said.

Tame

He said even the doctor at the hospital was surprised that he was transported to hospital with a helicopter.

Jessica's owner Tonie Joubert said the report was "a lot of nonsense" and not true.

Owner of SanWild-conservation area Louise Joubert told the Beeld that she spoke to Tonie Joubert and warned him that it was dangerous to have a hippopotamus.

"A tame hippopotamus is more dangerous than a wild one because it has no fear of humans. Jessica turns into a murder weapon and it's the owner's fault," she was quoted as saying.

Neighbour Mario van Rooyen was quoted as saying that he was scared for his children because this was the second time in four weeks that Jessica attacked someone.

However, Joubert said the reports were not true and the emergency services guy "dramatised everything".

"It is a lot of nonsense, Jessica is world-famous and 14 years old. The reports are not true," he said.

Joubert raised Jessica after finding her at a few hours old on the banks of the Blyde River with her umbilical cord still attached.

Jessica now lives with the Joubert family near Hoedspruit in Limpopo.

Jessica, who turned 14 in March, is one of the country's most renowned tame animals. She weighs over 1 400kg, and is a movie star with her own fan club and web page.

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