The funeral for the two-year-old toddler who was mauled by a leopard at staff living quarters in the Kruger National Park (KNP) on Wednesday will be held on Sunday at Mkhuhlu, reports Mpumalanga News.
Courtney Ntimane was attacked by a leopard at Malalane living quarters and was rushed to the nearest hospital, but succumbed to his injuries and passed away.
The postmortem on the leopards revealed that they were in very good condition with good teeth and no obvious injuries prior to death.
The adult female was carrying a lot of body fat, but with an empty gut, and the youngster also was in great condition with fresh impala in its stomach. This means that they were not desperately hungry animals, and indicates that the incident was most probably prompted by opportunistic instinct on the part of the adult.
SANParks reassured visitors and other stakeholders who visit the KNP that the area is safe as long as they observe rules and regulations when in the Park, especially around the illegal feeding of animals.
“SANParks strongly discourages people from doing such as these wild animals lose their fear of humans and venture into these areas,” read their statement.
CEO of South African National Parks, Fundisile Mketeni, has extended his condolences to the family of the deceased. “Our prayers and thoughts are with the family during this trying time. We wish them strength and will give them all the support they need as an organisation,”
“It is never easy to lose a loved one especially under such tragic circumstances, this is the risk we live with on a daily basis as we help conserve our species for the benefit of all. May the young toddler’s soul rest in eternal peace.
“Immediately upon hearing of the incident, the section ranger, his lance corporal with help from the regional ranger went out to search for the animal. The offending animal was found and shot dead to remove the danger of another person falling victim.”
In parks like the KNP, predators do interact with tourists and staff, and at times it may result in species like leopard getting habituated to people and losing their fear.
“The change in natural behaviour can then lead to unfortunate incidents such as this. This is an unfortunate risk that staff experience when having to live and work in environments like the KNP. These events are very rare occurrences but always tragic when they do occur,” said the statement.
KNP management sent a delegation to the family to give moral support. Professional counselling will be provided to all involved.
Additional reporting by African News Agency (ANA)