British Journalist Mauled By Lion On Zimbabwe Border

This was the moment a one-year old lion lunged at Charles Smith's throat, with the camera rolling. He was bitten in the leg and on the shoulder and it appears the lion was going for a killer bite to the neck. The incident happened in Limpopo Province, on the Zimbabwe/South Africa border.



Harare, Zimbabwe, 06 September 2009

A journalist with the British newspaper, The Telegraph, has been mauled by a lion in Limpopo Province in South Africa, on the border with Zimbabwe.

He was bitten on the shoulder and on the calf.

The reporter, Charles Starmer Smith, was filming a travel documentary at the Legend Resort in the province.

The lion in a captive one, which the owners of the resort found as a cub, wandering the backroads, dehydrated and starving. They took it in with the intention of eventually returning it to the wild.

That it is named Mapimpan, "Little Baby" in Shangaan, also served to reassure Smith. The lion is barely a year old.

Smith describes the incident as "a blur".

At first, the lion playfully pawed at his shoe, rolled onto its back and purred. The lion's keeper smiled and told the journalist:

"He likes you. Remember, it just wants to play."

At this point, the journalist made the mistake of not only relaxing, but also chuckling ("in disbelief" he says).

The lion took this as a challenge and started growling and circling the Smith.

"The lion clamped its jaws around my calf, sinking its teeth into my calf," says Smith.

"It rose onto its haunches, towering above me and I was spun into a waltz with a 300-pound predator - as I pushed desperately at its throat to keep away its jaws. This did not feel like playing.

With a series of fierce clips to Mapimpan's nose, Arrie (the keeper) managed to get it to release me. I had to fight the overwhelming urge to run. But I remembered Arrie's warning. So I stood there motionless, my heart thudding, my lungs gasping for air."

But the lion was not finished with him, as he explains:

"(The lion) seemed to be more docile now. I exhaled with relief. But then it slipped back through Arries's legs and was on me again, its teeth bared as it lunged towards my neck. I realised my forearm to divert its jaws from my face, then felt razor-sharp teeth ripping into my shoulder.

The next few seconds were a blur of claws, teeth and shouts as I stumbled around, helpless against the power of this animal.

Not a moment too soon, Arrie managed to free me from Mapimpan's clutches, cornering it on the far side of the enclosure. It was my clue to leave."

Smith says he blames no one and knew the risks when he went into the enclosure. He even says he is going to come back and see the lion when it is eventually released back into the wild.

The Limpopo province is still home to large numbers of marauding lions. South African border patrol say they pick up the remains of Zimbabweans trying to cross illegally into South Africa every week.

The illegal immigrants are attacked as they walk in the forests by the border and, often, all that is left of them are torn clothes and perhaps a few bones and rotting flesh and the head.

It is often impossible to identify victims of these lion attacks and the family back in Zimbabwe is left fuming, thinking their loved one had gone off to South Africa and got a good job and was now living it up, having forgotten them completely.


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