Media Release: Kruger Leopard Attack Guide Not At Fault.
Following a highly unusual incident recently of a leopard attack on a tourist guide working for a private Open Safari Vehicle (OSV) company operating in the Kruger National Park (KNP), South African National Parks (SANParks) said in a statement that there was no fault with the conduct of the guide.
The incident took place just after noon on Thursday, 2 July 2015 during a game drive with guests in the guides OSV and in full view of other tourists. It happened on Alpha Loop on the H4-1 road just outside Skukuza Rest Camp, on the road to Lower Sabie.
Speaking at a media briefing at its headquarters today (Thursday, 16 July 2015), Glenn Phillips, KNP Managing Executive, said, SANParks, through Mr Joep Stevens, conducted a thorough investigation to, inter alia, determine the facts around the unusual behaviour shown by the leopard on that fateful day. “It is very sad that this incident took place in the presence of guests and that the leopard had to be euthanized. Leopard sightings are most special in the Park, and no-one wants to see this happen, as various people had to, during this incident”
Regarding the risk related to Open Safari Vehicles, Phillips indicated that in the past 15 years close to 1,5 million guests entered the Park on privately operated OSV’s. This translates an average of 262 persons in 41 vehicles in the Park every single day. This incident is only the second such incident since the inception of OSV operations, 20 years ago. “As long as standards are maintained with vehicle design (height of sides) and guides are suitably skilled, the risk is minimal”.
According to Phillips, investigations on the leopard pointed out that the animal was in a very poor condition and that the unusual behaviour was possibly as a result of gradual habituation due to feeding. “This and other related circumstances which led to a decision to euthanize the animal were confirmed by a post mortem administered by the Skukuza State Veterinarian who attended to the matter.”
He said the results of the post mortem revealed that the animal’s teeth were in a poor condition, its stomach was empty, it had a distended or swollen gall bladder, was burdened by parasite (both internally and externally), had abnormally worn paw pads and was infected with tuberculosis”
Phillips also revealed that apart from the post mortem procedure carried out, the investigation also focussed on a number of aspects including allegations, mostly on social media platforms, of harassment or ‘boxing in’ of the leopard by the tourist guide. “This aspect received specific focus during the investigation with consideration given to eyewitness accounts as well as graphic sketches from the guide and visual or video evidence provided.”
“It has to be said that on closer inspection, it was evident that the animal was in no way ‘boxed-in’ or harassed in its free movement as alleged in some of the social media comments. The investigation has therefore absolved the tourist guide from any wrong doing.”
In conclusion Phillips indicated, that the investigation report broadly acknowledged that the leopard was in poor condition and according to eyewitnesses who spotted the animal earlier its behaviour was clearly unusual as it reared itself against a window of another vehicle. Therefore the conduct of the guide that was attacked was not unlawful or unreasonable.
Glenn Phillips thanked the public that came forward in order to assist in the investigation and indicated that management will be looking at various visitor management interventions to improve the conduct on our roads, especially at game sightings.
For previous media statements on this matter please go towww.sanparks.org
Issued by: South African National Parks (SANParks) Corporate Communications