A man who survived an attack by a hippopotamus in the Kavango West region on Sunday has described the terrifying moment as what could have been his last minutes on earth.
Abraham Hisikia, the survivor, is a 43-year-old cattle herder from Nzinze in Kavango West.
On Sunday, 2 January, he ended up face-to-face with an angry hippo, accompanied by its offspring near the river bank where he was bathing and survived.
The ordeal left him with severe injuries to his arm, back and leg. He is currently recovering in the Nankundu Hospital.
“As my cattle were drinking water, I also decided to put water in my basin and take a bath just a little further from the river. I remember I heard a huge splash and I saw that the hippo was running towards me. I was shocked, helpless and feared the worst for my life. The hippo then bumped me, and I fell. Then it looked like it wanted to swallow me. I started shouting and screaming for help as I slowly lost my energy.”
He said that before he had decided to take his cattle to the river to drink water, his friends had warned him about the danger of the hippos in the water since morning time.
According to Hisikia, he was later informed that more than 12 hippopotami were in the water at the time.
“But then, lucky enough the baby hippo started crying. When the mother looked back, I quickly crawled to a nearby tree where I passed out. I assume when the hippo returned, I was not around. A villager came to my rescue by firing gunshots in the air to scare off the hippo I was told. It took approximately 5 minutes for me to be rescued.”
“Immediately after I awoke in the hospital, the only thing that went through my mind was that I survived miraculously.”
He said that his livelihood would be affected due to the injuries he sustained in the ordeal.
“It will be very difficult for me to do hard labour work, and my work schedule needs to reduce with the injuries I have for now.”
The Kavango East Regional Council, Damian Maghambayi, recently told The Villager that human-wildlife conflict was one of the region’s biggest challenges, particularly with hippos and crocodiles.
According to the Kavango East police, 27 incidences have been reported, including drowning, crocodile and hippopotamus attacks from April 2020 to date. Hippos have caused five deaths in the same period.
CouncillorCosmusKaturaKayayuka from the Musese constituency in which the incident occurred said that residents are forced to use the river as there is no other choice.
“The major solution we have been crying for is that we have to have a pipeline where people can get water. We need the pipeline so that, if people go to the river, then it will be at their own risk. Because, currently, they have to fetch water from the river. There is no way they cannot get to the river. Water for cooking, consumption and any other usage is just at the riverside,” he told The Villager.
He further said that if a pipeline is not constructed along the tar road to prevent people from going to the riverside to fetch water, that will be a problem.
“We need the animals for tourism and other purposes, but people shouldn’t have to go to the river to fetch water.”
Petrus Haingura, who saved Hisikiafrom the hippo by discharging his rifle into the air twice to scare off the animal, said that the police do not come to the villages to rescue them when called upon in similar scenarios.
“The police always make up excuses by saying they don’t have cars when we call them to come and rescue our people or attend to these cases. Since Sunday, no police have come here to see or investigate what has happened to the victim. The environment ministry tells us not to go to the river because these animals will attack us, but we need water for all human consumptions. If we kill these animals, the police will come and arrest us, but when these hippos kill us, everything goes in the thin air; not even the family member that loses their loved one gets to be confronted by any of this ministry.”
He further said, “I know of 2 people that were attacked here and are living with a disability until now but have received no government grants; we need to be kept safe from these hippos as soon as possible.”
Last year the ministry of environment, forestry and tourism paid N$10 000 to a man who was attacked and injured by a crocodile while fetching water from the Okavango River.