by Albertina Nakale
A 36-year-old female game ranger who narrowly escaped death after being attacked by a rhino last Tuesday while conducting anti-poaching activities in Waterberg Plateau National Park is recovering in the Okakarara state hospital.
The young woman, identified as Tuli Niipele, was in the company of fellow game rangers who were busy conducting anti-poaching inspections in the thick bush around the park when they came across the rhino with its calf.
The rhino apparently charged at the rangers to protect its calf and gored Niipele in her back.
The spokesperson in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Romeo Muyunda, confirmed the incident on Friday.
He said the victim was in a stable condition.
Asked whether the rhino was put down, Muyunda said: “It was not killed because it attacked the person in the wilderness. It is not a problem animal, as we are the ones who encroached on its territory. It didn’t happen in a settlement where people live.”
Asked on the compensation issue, he said: “We don’t have a danger allowance for rangers. But the Social Security Commission compensates employees injured while on duty.”
He could not provide figures on all the ministry officials who got injured while on duty, saying they were still gathering such information.
Nampa who visited the victim on Wednesday at the Okakarara hospital reported that she and two colleagues were busy tracking the female rhino and its calf to identify them. Approximately three to five metres away from them, the rhino spotted them first. As they approached, it charged.
Niipele told Nampa that she and other colleagues who had shotguns quickly climbed a tree, but the branch she climbed on could not take her weight and it broke with her falling to the ground. The rhino then gored her.
One of her colleagues then broke off a tree branch and threw it onto the back of the rhino, which fled into the thick bush.