The Mercury

Terror as handler is trampled by elephant

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AN ANIMAL handler at the Knysna Elephant Park is in a serious condition after an adult bull trampled him repeatedly before flinging him into the air in an enraged attack, while a group of terrified visitors looked on in horror.

The assault, which lasted at least 10 minutes, on elephant handler Melikhaya “Arnold” Ndzwanana by the park’s star attraction, six-ton bull Harry, left the 32-year-old man in a critical condition with multiple injuries, including numerous bone fractures to both legs. Ndzwanana is in the intensive-care unit at Knysna Private Hospital and will require major surgery to his legs – one of which will have to be amputated.

The incident happened on Saturday.

Knysna Elephant Park spokesman Greg Vogt confirmed that both Ndzwanana’s ankles were broken. There had been significan­t blood loss from the damaged main artery in his leg, Vogt said.

Six women from Cape Town on a trip to the Garden Route, including Tracey Watson, mother of former Springbok loose-forward Luke Watson and her daughter, Candice, said the attack had taken place about 10m from where they were standing.

“The elephant lifted the poor man into the air and threw him into the ground and trampled him, over and over again. It was like a horror movie,” said Candice.

The group described how other elephant handlers desperatel­y tried to distract Harry (who had killed another tour guide in a similar attack six years ago) by throwing sticks and stones at the beast and even attempted to pull Ndzwanana away.

“Every time they tried to pull him away, the elephant just pulled him back,” said Cape Town attorney Tamlyn Pretorius, another member of the group.

“When the attack eventually stopped, his body was so bruised it looked like putty… The attack lasted 10 minutes and then the elephant stood over the guide’s body for another 10 minutes until a tractor arrived and pushed the elephant away,” said Candice.

Melanie Garthwait, owner of the Chelsea Aesthetic Centre in Cape Town, said Ndzwanana’s lower legs were left “at odd angles” after the attack.

They said another seven guests who were with them also saw the attack, which took place in an open area where they were encouraged to feed the elephants by hand with chunks of fruit.

“We were interactin­g with the other elephants when we heard Harry trumpeting… the elephant attacked the guide,” said accountant Lufuno Masutha.

Other elephants became increasing­ly agitated. “There was nowhere to hide. We were all crying. We all started praying,” said Masutha.

Saturday’s attack was at least the second by 21-yearold, 3.5m-tall Harry, described as a “gentle giant”.

Yesterday, Vogt said Harry would not be put down, but the bull would “never again” come into contact with guests. Vogt said all the park’s male elephants had been moved, but visitors were still being allowed to feed the female herd.

He said that Ndzwanana, who had been employed by the park for eight years, would be taken care of. Vogt said the reason for the attack was not known. – Garden Route Media

 ?? PICTURE: NEIL OELOFSE ?? Harry, a six-ton bull elephant, appears with a handler on a previous occasion. The pachyderm severely injured handler Melikhaya Arnold Ndzwanana
PICTURE: NEIL OELOFSE Harry, a six-ton bull elephant, appears with a handler on a previous occasion. The pachyderm severely injured handler Melikhaya Arnold Ndzwanana

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