Park boss in close encounter of the buffalo kind

30 June 2015 - 02:02 By Staff reporter

"It happened fast. I saw the blur of buffalo and reacted. I shouted a warning over my left shoulder and knew it was face or flee." Reflecting on a close encounter with a buffalo late last month in which he and his wife were seriously injured, Andrew Zaloumis, CEO of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, said his 40 years of bush experience had not helped much."We had the misfortune of surprising an old dugga boy well-screened by a cluster of deep green bushes with the morning sun behind it," he said.When the buffalo reacted, Zaloumis instinctively turned sideways to limit the damage."The tip of its left horn hooked into the side of my abdomen, cracking ribs and bruising my right kidney. It pulled its head up, twisting as the horn came out of my body, and it connected a solid blow to the side of my temple."The impact catapulted me backwards. During all of this my collar bone also broke."As I hit the dirt it crossed my mind that it would be back. Strangely, I accepted this calmly as a simple detail," he said.His wife, Tracey, was running for help when the buffalo came up behind her, goring her left thigh and tossing her aside. "Later we would find out she had fractured her L1 vertebra," Zaloumis said. A medical helicopter arrived and Dr Irene Coutsoudis attended to Tracey, who was flown to hospital.Zaloumis said the buffalo had reacted as any surprised animal might, "by getting us out of its way and then by getting out of our way".About 200 people in Africa had a negative encounter with Cape buffalo every year, compared with 3000 incidents with hippo, 2500 crocodile attacks and 500 by elephant, said Zaloumis."Buffalo do not seek people out to attack them. Negative encounters normally occur when people get into their space and make the buffalo feel uncomfortable and threatened."

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