A toddler has been horrifically crushed to death and her mother critically injured when a giraffe, believed to be protecting its calf, attacked them in a safari park in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
The tragedy took place at Kuleni Game Park where the baby girl’s mom reportedly works as a tour guide, while her husband works locally. The 25-year-old mother is apparently fighting for her life, after the giraffe attacked her out of the blue and trampled her 16-month old daughter to death.
After the giraffe was driven off, the critically injured mother and daughter were rushed to a doctor but nothing could be done to save the toddler who died in his surgery.
Due to the remoteness of the game farm from the nearest hospital, and the seriousness of her multiple injuries the Netcare911 air ambulance was brought in to help save the female tour guide. She is currently in Intensive Care in hospital.
The luxury, eco-friendly 14-lodge game farm is not making any comment to the media.
The Park is about 275km from Durban, 16km from Hluhluwe and is famed for its nature trails. Kuleni’s website says: « Enjoy close encounters with animals while walking or cycling the numerous trails.» The game farm is home to giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, nyala and duikers; and with strictly no predators, it promises guests at the £150-a-night luxury eco-friendly timber lodges a “safe environment”.
The tragedy is being investigated by South African Police and animal experts to discover exactly what happened when the mum and daughter were attacked without warning.
Giraffes use their legs and necks with two potentially deadly ossicones on top of their heads – effectively horns – to attack which they can use as powerful whiplash weapons.
Police spokesman Lieut-Colonel Nqobile Gwala said:
“The 25-year-old mother and her 16-month-old child were at Kuleni Game Farm in Hluhluwe when they were trampled by a giraffe.
“The child was taken to the nearest doctor’s room where she died and the mother was rushed to hospital for medical attention and is reported to be in a critical condition.
“The circumstances surrounding the attack are still under investigation.”
It is understood the mother and daughter were not tourists. They were a local family staying at the lodge with the little girl’s father who worked in the area.
It is not the first time a giraffe has attacked humans.
In 2018 British scientist Dr Katy Williams, 36, and her son Finn, 3, were both attacked in South Africa by a female giraffe protecting its calf. They were left critically injured, and it was only thanks to the intervention of her husband Dr Sam Williams, 36 – who was out jogging on the wildlife estate where they lived and worked – that saved them both from being killed. They were both in comas for a month and it was feared Finn would be brain damaged by the severe head injuries but both made a long yet remarkable and full recovery.
A few months earlier a wildlife cameraman working on TV’s Wild at Heart was attacked and killed by an agitated giraffe when it battered him with a swipe with its long neck. South African Carlo Carvalho, 47, was knocked 16 foot through the air at the Glen Africa game park in Broederstroom, North West province where the series was filmed. He was rushed to hospital but died from severe head injuries.
In 2015 a South African cyclist was apparently trampled to death by an irate giraffe at the Thabato Game Lodge in Limpopo province after tourists found his body. Braam Bosse, 45, was found crushed and stamped to death beside his bicycle after going for a ride on a game trail on his own and experts blamed a giraffe attack.
The herbivores are gentle creatures but can become deadlier when females protect their young or when adult males fight to the death to prove which one is dominant.
They have two large bony horns known as ossicones on the top of their heads which they use as weapons, using their six-foot-long 275kg necks to batter each other with.
A male giraffe grows to 5.5 metres tall and weighs about 1,360kg and a female grows to 4.3m and weighs 680kg but attacks by them on humans are said to be very rare.
Giraffe are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as ‘vulnerable’ which means they’re under ‘high risk’ of extinction in the wild.
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