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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Subject: Lion attack Chipangali - the facts

3rd June 2010 – taken from Chipangali web site
Lion attack Chipangali

This is a description of the terrible tragedy that occurred at Chipangali on 1 June 2010 when one of our lions escaped from its cage.
Lion Attack Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage: The Facts.

To dispel all the rumors and gossip around Bulawayo I have supplied you with the facts about our tragic accident that happened at Chipangali on June 1 2010.

Work begins at 7.45 with all staff reporting for the daily duties, this is a daily practice where all the cages are cleaned, water added to the concrete dishes and finally if need be extra bedding placed in their security quarters. Over the weekend Bulawayo experienced, terrible and indeed unusual weather. Normally during this time of the year we have what we term Guti (light drizzle). This weekend showed completely the opposite, with a heavy down pour of cold winter rain. This led to a large number of our carnivore cages having wet and soggy grass.

8.00 am

All staff were given their daily chores including the extra work which we decided to do and that was to top up where ever and in other cases remove the old and wet grass from the many cages.

It was at this time that our Carnivore Team proceeded to the enclosure at the back of our deep freeze and cold rooms and began cleaning and removing the old wet grass.

At this point I would like to explain how the system of working with the large carnivores functions. We have security and lock up cages and exercise cages on all our facilities. The system is as follows, the animals are moved to the security cages and locked up, only once the team is happy with the securing of the sliding doors and all entrance and exit gates do the staff proceed into the neutral cage. This has been the process and routine for the last 38 years.

8.30 – 9.00 am

The staff moved Lobi our large black maned lion from one cage to another and proceeded to remove all the old wet grass, once completed they then started using sacks filled with fresh new grass and added this to the clean cage. It is at this point where the whole system is not failsafe (human error) the team failed to lock and secure the external cage door.

9.10 am

Our staff member then proceeded to the sliding gate and opened the door to move the lion back to the his new clean enclosure.

Unfortunately he ran through and then exited the cage, out to where we had other members of staff assisting to fill sacks with grass.

This is when the lion came into the contact with our staff. Unfortunately, Robyn Lotz, a friend of many years, and great supporter of Chipangali was standing helping to load bags of grass. She was at the back of the cold room area checking on a lion which we worked with over the weekend. An attack ensued, and Robyn being a young lady was no match for a full grown lion. The lion attacked her and pulled her to the ground.

From this point chaos reigned. Over the years we have always had a strict policy of how we would deal with the situation if it ever happened. Our policy always revolved around the protecting of human life and securing of the Orphanage facilities in order to stop the movement of any large carnivores out of the parameter fences.

9.15 am

It is at this time that I became involved, I was sitting in my office attending to new emails and suddenly heard a great deal of shouting and commotion. The next thing was I had Nqoble Ncube at my office door telling me to come quickly with a gun as a lion had grabbed Robyn.

I immediately jumped up and ran to the gun safe and grabbed our 30.06 rifle together with an extra box of ammunition and ran to the cold room area. To my horror and dismay I saw Lobi crouched over Robyn, He had her in his mouth and was holding her at the back of her head.

My first reaction was to shoot but my sight picture only showed that if I had fired, there was a ninety percent chance of hitting Robyn as well. It was at this point that I changed my initial position to try and get a better view of the lion and this failed. I then ran back to my initial position, at this point the lion decided to get up and move with Robyn still firmly in his mouth. By standing up and moving the lion gave me the opportunity that I needed, his body and chest was separated from the sight picture of Robyn’s body. It is the most helpless situation one can be in as you know that time is of the essence, where you have to act quickly and decisively but at the same time you can make the process worse by shooting someone. On having a clear sight picture I fired the 30.06 and with that shot the lion immediately dropped Robyn and moved position. It is at this point that I fired another shot into the lion to secure the area.

9.20 am

From here we quickly removed Robyn and carried her to the vehicle by our house. Immediately, with the assistance of two members of my senior staff we sped to the Mater Dei (Hospital in Bulawayo) casualty unit.

Again this process seemed to take hours in reality the trip from Chipangali to Mater Dei took 4 minutes as I realized yet again time was of the essence. At this time Robyn was partially conscious and kept on telling me that she was battling to breath, I knew this would be a problem as it is the method that lions use to subdue their prey by constricting the airways.

As we entered the traffic lights at the corner of Philips drive Robyn became unconscious and we were literally less than 400 meters from the hospital. We arrived and entered the hospital at the ambulance entrance where we got medical assistance from the casualty unit.

After more than 20 minutes of trying to resuscitate her, Robyn was no longer with us.

This incident is certainly the worst and most unreal experience that one can ever have to go through. It will haunt me and be in my mind for the rest of my life. I would like to pass on our condolences to Robyn’s family and can truly say this was a very sad day in the history of Chipangali. The loss of Robyn, as a friend and supporter, will be widely felt and all we can say is that she left behind some lovely art work and wall murals’ for the public to see around Chipangali. Rest in Peace Robyn.

An excerpt from Maggie Kriels Morning Mirror sums up the nature and feel for life that Robyn had.

Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and Destroying , keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another. - John Muir, Naturalist and explorer


Kevin, Nicky and Viv Wils

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