A man has told how he battled a leopard with his bare hands for 10 minutes after the reclusive animal plunged its paws into his thighs.
Mehleli Ndlovu, 25, was herding cattle at Dandasi Farm in Shangani – 100km from Bulawayo on the Gweru highway – when the animal leapt out of the bushes and grabbed a calf.
As the leopard dragged the calf away, Ndlovu’s four dogs charged at it forcing it to abandon its meal and go for him instead. His neighbour’s son, 12, managed to flee the scene.
Ndlovu, employed as a general hand on the farm, said: “It was at about 6PM and I was driving the cattle to the pens. My dogs spotted the leopard which had just killed a calf and rushed to attack it.
“I heard the roar of the leopard as it came for me. I had little time to react. It bit my thigh with its sharp teeth and pushed me to the ground. I was carrying an axe but it slipped from my hands.
“While I was still on the ground, the animal stood right on top of me and tried to bite my face and chest. I blocked it with my hands, resulting in the further injuries on my arms and right palm.”
Ndlovu was treated for his injuries at Shangani Hospital 12km away before being referred to the United Bulawayo Hospitals for further treatment after the October 20 attack.
He spoke from Bulawayo on Thursday as he continued his treatment. Without his brave dogs, he insists, he would not have pulled through.
“The animal was very powerful and I don’t think I could have made it without the dogs. While I struggled to free myself, we both rolled on the ground with the leopard and the dogs were there, attacking the animal. The whole thing must have lasted 10 minutes after which the leopard let go,” he said.
The leopard was seen a few days later limping, and its fate is unknown.
Originally from Gwanda, Ndlovu said his encounter with the leopard followed several reports in the area of disappearing domestic animals. Attacks on humans were however rare, he added.
“However, the area is becoming dangerous and I think something must be done before people lose their lives,” said Ndlovu, who had two of his dogs wounded while battling the leopard.
Dandazi is slightly over 30km from a massive conservancy area, and wild animals routinely stray into neighboring farms.