A HANKEY farm worker aged 32 was recovering in a Port Elizabeth hospital yesterday after being mauled by a leopard at the weekend.
Elton Grobbelaar, who works on the citrus farm Oubos in the Hankey area, was attacked by the leopard on Saturday morning while hunting for caracal (rooikat) on the farm.
Grobbelaar, who was admitted to Greenacres Hospital, said he and a few other workers had been following a pack of five dogs they used to track caracal on the farm.
“The dogs were on the path of a caracal when all of them suddenly changed direction and ran onto a neighbour’s farm,” he said. “We ran after the dogs. While we were chasing them a leopard hiding in a bush jumped out and attacked me.”
Grobbelaar said he was about 2m from the bush when the leopard attacked. “It happened so quickly,” he said. “The leopard jumped onto me and held onto my right arm with its claws when I fell to my knees. I did not know what to do. Then the leopard bit me in the face.”
A man who was hunting with Grobbelaar ran up and shot the leopard while it was on top of him. “They rushed me to a doctor, who arranged for me to be taken to hospital in Port Elizabeth.”
Grobbelaar described the attack as “very scary”. Had the leopard not been shot, he said, he would have been killed.
“It might have even started attacking everyone else in the group as well.”
The leopard damaged Grobbelaar’s left eye, which he can still not see out of. “I am going to the eye specialist to see what can be done,” he said.
“They say I will have to go for an operation on Thursday.”
Dr Bool Smuts, director of the Landmark Foundation, a leopard advocacy group, said Landmark had been conducting studies on leopards in the greater Baviaans area since 2004. “From what we know, three leopards have been killed on this farm over a two- month period,” he said.
“We suspect illegal hunting is taking place on that farm.”
Smuts said he believed the leopard had been hunted and had attacked the dogs in self defence. “It is highly improbable that a leopard would have attacked them unless it had been provoked,” he said. “I suspect they were tracking the leopard when it ran into the bush for cover.”
He stressed that a leopard would only attack if it was threatened. “I am certain this animal acted in self-defence.”
Leopards are a protected species. Legislation prohibits them from being hunted unless it can be proved that an individual animal is taking stock.
In such cases, a farmer can apply for a permit.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Marianette Olivier said no case of an animal attack had been reported to the police.
A senior nature conservation official said an investigation by his department was under way.
Environmental Affairs spokesman Sixolile Makaula could not be reached for comment.
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