Baby survives elephant attack

2001-04-17 14:24

Pietersburg - A one-year-old baby miraculously survived when his mother was charged and trampled to death by an elephant on a farm near Hoedspruit in the Northern Province Lowveld on Monday morning, police said on Tuesday.

Inspector Moatshe Ngoepe said the woman, Gift Mataebula, 21, with the baby on her back, and her husband, John Xhosa, were collecting mopani worms on the farm Zeekoeigat, where they worked, shortly after 6am when they apparently surprised the elephant.

"The tracks show that the couple must have been some 15 metres from the elephant when it charged," said Colin Rowless, a game ranger at the Zeekoeigat Reserve in the Klaserie district.

According to the husband he and his wife ran from the elephant in opposite directions. The animal pursued his wife and child.

"Apparently the elephant halted, but in the ensuing chaos, the woman again ran in front of the elephant. It again charged and caught up with her about 37 metres further, and then pushed her to the ground. "It was at this point that the baby fell from her back. It is possible that the mother flung her child from her. About nine metres further, the elephant rolled the woman on the ground and trampled her," Rowless said.

The husband ran home to seek help, but the woman was dead by the time they returned to the scene. The baby was found a few metres from the mother's body. It was lying with its face in the sand, but was unscathed.

"The woman's body was crushed. We followed the elephant's tracks to where they crossed into a neighbouring farm. The fact that the elephant did not attack the baby, shows that it was not displaying aberrant behaviour. "There are no fences between the farm and the Kruger Park. According to the latest count, there are at present 430 elephants in the area - more than ever before," Rowless said.

Handler killed by elephant

It was the second incident involving an animal killing a human over the Easter weekend.

A handler was killed by an elephant cow, which was being used on a film set, in Broederstroom outside Johannesburg on Sunday, police said.

A co-owner of Glen Africa farm outside Broederstroom, Vicky Brooker, said Fiso Mbambo, 23, was killed while walking through the veld with five fellow handlers, who worked for circus owner Brian Boswell, at around 2.30pm.

The cow was one of seven elephants being used as background animals for the filming of Olie, a film being made for video release.

The animals were not however, being filmed at the time of the incident. "It was an accident. I wasn't there myself, but everyone tells me she showed no signs of aggression. She just pushed him over, knelt on him and walked over him and down to the river.

"Unfortunately if an elephant kneels on you and pushes you into the ground you are history," she said.

She said the animals were not being used to perform tricks and the filming was being monitored by the Animal Anti Cruelty League.

Brooker denied police reports that the man had been trampled to death.

"Because an elephant is so heavy they can cause severe damage just by leaning on someone. They are also boisterous and tend to lean on each other often.

"If someone is trampled to death, like what happened in Botswana, there is very little left of the person," she said. - Sapa