Like a true warrior, a 20-year-old Chipinge man survived a vicious lioness attack after wrestling the animal with bare hands while his 14-year-old nephew clung onto his back.
This story, which reads like a horror movie script, happened on Tuesday morning when three family members from Munyamana Village under Chief Musikavanhu in Chipinge South were harvesting cotton.
When two lions that are believed to have escaped from the nearby Save Conservancy attacked the trio, Berty Chigwe sustained serious injuries while his nephew Muzi Chikowo was bruised all over his body.
Their third companion, Sam Chikowo (10), escaped unharmed after outpacing a sprinting lion and finding refuge in a tree.
Yesterday, The Manica Post caught up with Chigwe, who is recuperating at St Peter’s Mission Hospital in Chisumbanje.
He narrated how he escaped death by a whisker.
“My two nephews Muzi, Sam and l woke up early Tuesday morning to harvest cotton in our fields. We then heard people shouting from a distance that they had spotted two lions coming from Save River heading towards our direction.
“We ignored them and continued with our work. After about 20 minutes, two lions emerged from a nearby cotton field and started roaring. A lioness charged towards me.
“Fear gripped my nephew, Muzi, who ran and jumped onto my back. Everything happened in a flash. I remember seeing Sam running away with another lion in hot pursuit,” he said.
Chigwe said up to now, he still cannot understand how he survived.
“I wrestled with the lioness that had jumped on us.
“When we fell down, the lioness mauled my left thigh. I was badly injured and blood oozed from the injury. I remained determined to survive and continued wrestling with it. I tried to grab its mouth, but failed.
“I was also mauled on my right hand and it dragged me towards the direction where Sam had ran towards. I continued crying for help as I was staring death in the face.
“As that was happening, Muzi managed to escape and ran to notify other villagers. They swiftly reacted and came to my rescue, armed with hoes, iron bars and drums. When they started beating the drums, this scared the lioness. lt dropped me and ran away into the wilderness,” said Chigwe.
Neighbours rushed Chigwe and Muzi to Rimbi Clinic.
Chigwe was later transferred to St Peter’s Mission Hospital, while Muzi is now recovering at home.
Muzi confirmed that he survived by jumping onto his uncle’s back.
“When we saw the lions approaching us, fear gripped me and I ran to my uncle. I jumped on his back and clung onto his shoulders. As the lioness charged towards us, Uncle Berty remained rooted on the ground until the lioness jumped at him.
“As we fell onto the ground, I continued clinging onto my uncle’s shoulders and that’s when l sustained these bruises. The lioness mauled his thigh and I took advantage of the commotion to escape and alert the other villagers.”
Chigwe’s mother, Ms Esther Sithole, said the incident shock her to the core.
She is, however, happy that her son survived the attack.
“I am still in a state of shock. The lioness could have killed my son, but thanks to his bravery, he is still alive. This is a miracle and I thank God for sparing my son’s life,” she said.
Zimbabwe Wildlife and Parks Management spokesperson, Mr Tinashe Farawo and Ward 21 Councillor Lucas Muchinani confirmed the incident.
Mr Farawo said the human and wildlife conflict in Chipinge is being caused by overpopulation of wild animals in Save Conservancy.
“I can confirm that two lions attacked and injured two people in Chief Musikavanhu’s area on Tuesday. One of them is still in hospital.
“It is very unfortunate that people are being attacked by wild animals straying from conservancies. This is due to overpopulation, the animals end up encroaching into human settlements in search of food and water.
“We have deployed our rangers and they are hunting the predators with a view of putting them down.
“Recently, another similar incident was reported in Bikita. Our rangers are on the ground trekking the lions. This year alone, lions have killed at least four people, injuring several others across the country,” said Mr Farawo.
Councillor Muchinani said following the incident, villagers are living in fear of being attacked by wild animals. This is slowing down the harvesting of cotton in the area.