German Couple Survive Tug-of-War With Leopard in Namibia

Published April 17th, 2018 - 01:00 GMT
A leopard attacked a German couple in their camper van. (AFP/ File Photo)
A leopard attacked a German couple in their camper van. (AFP/ File Photo)

A German couple survived a horrific tug of war with a leopard after the predator attacked and tried to drag one of them out of the open window of their camper van by the head.

Hardy Specker, 61, and partner Petra Windmeisser, 60, had pulled over to sleep in the Kuiseb Canyon in Namibia when they were woken by loud scratching at a window in the early hours.

Mr Specker got up to close the window at 1am but as he pulled it shut a leopard jumped up the side of the camper van and gripped his head with its claws and jaws.

Ms Windmeisser told The Namibian how her screaming husband was being dragged out of the window when she rushed forward and grabbed his legs and fought with the leopard.

She said: 'The struggle went on for some minutes until Hardy eventually managed to stick his fingers into the leopards' eyes which caused it to let go and then I managed to pull him back inside.

'There was blood everywhere and he was bleeding profusely. I tried to stop the bleeding and at the same time made a phone call from our satellite phone to the emergency services to come save us.

'But there was no reception at all but he was losing a lot of blood though he was still conscious. It was like the worst of my nightmares. I thought Hardy was going to die. It all happened so quickly.

'I was pulling on his legs as hard as I could but the leopard was so strong. Hardy was screaming and there was blood everywhere,' she said.

Mr Specker's scalp had been torn to pieces and his shoulders and arms were shredded by the leopards claws. He had a deep wound to his neck and his body was drenched in his own blood.

The horrific ordeal for the couple from Lake Constance in Germany however was not over as they heard the leopard leap onto the roof of their camper van and begin prowling.

Ms Windmeisser said they were both terrified and too scared to move as the nocturnal leopard alternated between walking on the roof and stalking around the camper van until dawn six hours later.

She said: 'We screamed and made noise and used lights but the leopard remained there and just wouldn't go.'

At 7am they saw a passing vehicle and sounded the horn and were rescued by tourist lodge worker Wilfred Andreas who took the wheel of their vehicle and drove them at speed to hospital in Walvis Bay.

They were taken to the Welwitschia Private Hospital which had been alerted by the rescuer to be ready for seriously injured Mr Specker and he underwent emergency surgery for his horrendous injuries.

It is said by African big game hunters that every second a leopard is on you it leaves wounds that will take 100 stitches to repair - if you are fortunate enough to survive an attack from the 70kg big cat.

Last night the hospital said that Mr Specker was in a critical but stable condition.

Retired physiotherapist Ms Windmeisser is organising to have their camper van shipped back to Germany and hoping to fly her maimed husband home to receive further medical treatment when he is well enough for an air ambulance.

They had been planning a dream nine month tour of South Africa in their own camping van for the last two years.

The leopard attack happened on the edge of the Namib Desert about 50 miles from Walvis Bay and two weeks into the couple's dream African adventure.

Mr Andreas said that he believed the leopard had been attacked and injured by poachers and had become enraged which is likely why it behaved in such an unusual way attacking the tourist camper van.

Website reported him saying: 'I heard the hooter of the camper blasting and drove over to see how I could assist when a woman alighted from the cab in a panicked state.'

She told him her husband had got up at 1am to close a window after they heard scratching noises and said the leopard just grabbed him by the head and tried dragging him out through the window.

Leopards pound-for-pound are the strongest of all the African big cats and are powerful enough to drag prey three times their weight up to the top of a tree away from scavengers so they can feed in peace.

Mr Andreas continued: 'She said she grabbed her husband's feet and eventually pulled him back inside the vehicle and after that she closed the window and tried to help her badly bleeding husband.

'The man was severely injured and the truck was covered in blood on the inside and outside. The man had very deep scratches on his head, neck, arms and chest and was taken straight into surgery'.

Mr Andreas said the distraught woman told him that they had seen another vehicle close to where they were camping which disappeared after the attack and he believes they were probably leopard poachers.

He said he thought they probably shot and wounded the leopard after baiting a trap to lure it in which then became enraged by its pain.

Mr Andreas continued: 'The whole scene was strange with blood high up on the truck close to the window and deep scratch marks on the aluminium body of the vehicle caused during the attack.

'The fact that the leopard attacked the man and the vehicle can only mean it was wounded by someone who shot it and my fear is if the animal is in the vicinity and still alive it could attack again,' he said.

Leopards can jump vertically over 9ft so it could easily have reached the camper van window. They can ran up to 40mph and are described as the perfect predator and become even more deadly when injured.

A Namibian hunting website said: 'Wounded leopards are usually hell bent on revenge.'

Namibia is one of Africa's favourite safari destinations for British tourists as it is bigger than France but with only 2 million inhabitants it is sparsely populated and has wide open spaces teeming with wildlife including leopards.

There are thought to be about 4,500 leopard left alive in Southern Africa but they thrive in Namibia thanks to the lack of human contact and game conservation. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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