Researcher punches lion as it tries to eat him as naked friend saves him

WARNING – GRAPHIC IMAGES

A wildlife researcher is lucky to be alive after a starving lion tried to eat him.

Gotz Neef was sleeping in his tent in Botswana on December 7 when the emaciated predator pounced on him and tried to eat him.

Fellow researcher Dr Rainer Von Brandis was sleeping nearby when he burst into action, throwing elephant dung and branches at the lion before hitting it with a tree branch in a desperate bid to save his friend, all while naked from the waist down.

Neef punched the lion on the nose and attempted to fight it off, then head ranger Tomalets Setabosha threw a flash-bang to frighten away the giant cat before running it over in his Land Cruiser.

The lion eventually ran away into the bush.

Neef was rushed to hospital with 16 puncture wounds from the lion’s teeth, a number of broken bones in his arms and elbow and deep scratches from the claws.

Park rangers decided to put down the lion after it was kicked out of his pride by younger rivals, leaving it to starve which prompted it to attack Neef in a bid for survival.

Recalling the terrifying five-minute attack,Von Brandis, 46, said: “I guess I was not a pretty sight in just a T-shirt naked from the waist down and wearing a head torch screaming at this lion who was attacking my friend!

“I heard Gotz screaming there was something big outside his tent and I ran out in the pitch black with my head torch on and saw this big male lion had collapsed his tent.

“It had one paw on Gotz and fortunately was chewing on the tent poles rather than him and I just saw some big piles of dried elephant dung and pelted the lion with it really hard.

“That didn’t work so I threw thorn branches at it but that didn’t work either and by now the lion had Gotz by the elbow and was seriously chewing him and my friend was screaming.

“I was nearly naked and was screaming as well and ran up to the lion and beat it with a big piece of a tree but it did nothing and then our head ranger Tomalets Setlabosha came out.

“I was smashing the lion with the branch but it would not stop chewing on Gotz and hardly even blinked when Tomalets threw a thunder flash banger used to scare hippos close to it.

“We patched Gotz up and drove him to a hospital in Maun, which was a very bumpy 50 mile trip which took three hours which was very painful for him, where a doctor sorted him out.

“He was then airlifted back to Windhoek in Namibia where he lives and taken to hospital there and is recovering from so many bites – I cannot even guess how many fang holes he has.

“It is important to say that there is nothing reckless in camping in tents out in the wild as that is the only way you can do your research in the wild as there is no other way of doing this.

“What happened was extremely rare where an old lion is driven out of its pride and was starving to death and to get a meal this was its last roll of the dice and he was so desperate.

“Gotz will heal in time and will be back on the team soon and the lion was put out of its misery. This was not normal lion behaviour but it had no other option to try and stay alive.

“The lion jumped a bit but was it was so hungry and so desperate and this was its last chance at a kill to feed or it would die so it restarted its attack and began trying to eat Gotz again.

“Then Tomalets jumped into the Land Cruiser and ran the lion over but it would not leave Gotz alone and he had to run it over three times before it let go and ran off into the bush.

“The lion was euthanised which was the kindest thing to do for it as it was skin and bone and would have died an agonising death at the jaws of other lions or starving to death if left alone.”

Neef has slept out in the wilds of Africa in his two-man tent more than 500 times and has been the subject of lion attention before.

He said: “In 2018 we had three young males come into camp and I had one of them lying against my tent and against my feet but after about 45 minutes he got up and just moved away “.

It is thought lions kill up to 200 people a year in Africa in the wild, mainly old males who can no longer hunt. The victims are rarely tourists or guides or researchers and tend to be local people in remote villages or poachers.

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