An assistant ranger, who was recently brutally attacked by an elephant, says his will to survive saved him despite his intestines protruding as a result of his injuries.
Simasiku Matomola (39) works at the Mudumu National Park and is employed by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism in the Zambezi region.
He yesterday recalled his narrow escape.
“On the morning of 1 April, two colleagues and drove into the park, because we were supposed set up a camera trap in the bush. We drove about 30 km from our workstation into the park, and as we reached the area where we were to set up the camera, we parked the car,” he said.
Matomola said the car could not reach the set destination, so the threesome took their gear to walk about 200 metres.
He said his two colleagues walked out ahead of him.
“As we were about to reach our destination, I noticed my colleagues starting to run back. They ran past me without uttering a word. I was curious to see what they were running from and went to see, just to realise it was an elephant. The elephant was about 10 m away from me when I saw it. It started moving towards me, and all I could think of was to defend myself,” he said.
Matomola, who was carrying equipment and a rifle, started backing down slowly, planning to shoot the elephant, but then tripped and fell.
“It then attacked me with its tusk through my right ribs, tearing my stomach open, and my intestines were out. It stood there looking at me, but I decided I will not give up, and took my shirt and tied my intestines to my body. I saw the rifle and crawled towards it. The elephant then started moving towards me, but I reached for the rifle and fired two shots. The elephant then ran away,” he said.
Matomola said his colleagues came back when all seemed safe, and took him to the Sangwali clinic, from where he was transferred to the Katima Mulilo State Hospital.
Matomola expressed his disappointment with the ministry for not paying park rangers a danger allowance.
He said another colleague survived a leopard attack, and was also not compensated by the ministry.
“It was him last year and now it was me. Tomorrow it will be someone who will die without any danger benefits,” he said.
The environment ministry’s spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, yesterday confirmed the incident, saying it was highly regrettable.
He said the ministry is pleased that the ranger survived.
The elephant was injured and ran off, Muyunda said.
“However, it is unfortunate that currently the ministry has no provision for the compensation of staff members. This is because we believe there is a government arm set up to deal with such issues, which is the Social Security Commission,” he said.
Muyunda further expressed the ministry’s regret that the trained ranger was left to go out into the field with two unskilled University of Namibia students, who could not render much assistance.
He said protocol should be that two skilled rangers do fieldwork together.
“These are only students, not trained natural conservationists, so it is in their nature to run from danger,” Muyunda said.