Friday, August 14, 2009

New dangers everyday...

A lot of things can happen to you in Southern Sudan which you can avoid in most other places of the world. You could pick up any number of diseases - including ones that should be eradicated. You could get bit by a snake, scorpion or spider. You can get dropped off in some remote site and not get picked up for six months. But now, apparently, there's a new one to add to the list.

A security advisory has just been circulated - importance: high - subject line: Leopard around UNMIS Camp.

A leopard. Riiight. I can deal with a hijacking, hostages, road accidents, armed robberies, even aerial bombings but I have no training whatsoever to do in a leopard attack. This would all be less disconcerting if it weren't the very place where I go for a run a few times a week and I don't think I can outrun a leopard. But, let's return to the UN advisory because, surely, they must give some helpful advice...

And here it is: "Be extra vigilant and careful. Report to security immediately on spotting the leopard."

Huh. Well. That's, ummmm, not really helpful. So, I decided to take my security into my own hands and googled, 'what to do if being chased by a leopard.' After about a minute searching I came across actual advice...most of it slightly disconcerting so I will interject my thoughts and comments as we go along:

Leopards usually shy away from humans, and are normally not dangerous if you leave them alone. They are only likely to become aggressive when threatened or provoked. If wounded, cornered or suddenly disturbed, they can become exceedingly dangerous. [KH: great...avoid cornering, got it.].

In certain parts of Africa healthy Leopards have preyed on humans, usually killing women and children. [KH: That doesn't bode so well]. Such behaviour is, however, atypical of Leopards in the southern African subregion. Old and sick Leopards, unable to catch wild prey, may, however, very exceptionally attack humans.

Apparently one can pass close by a hiding Leopard and as long as your eyes don't meet, it will allow one to pass. But the moment it is aware that one has noticed it, it will flee, or if cornered, may attack. [KH: Let me get this straight...we're supposed to be watching for the leopard but, god forbid, you should see it - and it you - at the same time?!] !Xõ trackers maintain that you must never look a Leopard in the eyes when confronted by it, since you will infuriate it. By pretending to ignore it, it will most likely choose to avoid contact. [KH: Sounds like some people I know.]

If you see a Leopard and you are not walking towards it, continue walking and do not look at it or stand still. If it realises that it has been seen, it may feel threatened and attack. When you encounter a Leopard at close range, and if it warns you by roaring, retreat slowly, moving sideways away rather than directly backwards, and don't stare at it. [KH: Yeah, right. Like I'm going to remember that after I've made eye contact.] Try not to frighten the Leopard, and don't throw anything at it. Don't feed it as this is likely to make it bolder and possibly even aggressive.

Once committed to a full attack, only a fatal bullet will stop a charging Leopard. [KH: When did we start talking about 'commitment' to an attack? I'm only committed to getting the heck out of there.] It charges very fast and low on the ground. It embraces its victim, with claws extended, and full use is made of the powerful dew claws. The victim is mauled with teeth and all four clawed feet, and the killing bite is directed at the back of the head or neck or the throat, the victim being throttled or has the jugular vein severed. [KH: Gulp. Nice. Spare no details, guys, please!]

There have been cases where people successfully defended themselves against Leopards with knives and even used stones to hit them on the head. [KH: I can't even hit small flightless birds with stones. I'm not going to take out a charging leopard.] In some cases unarmed people have been able to choke the Leopard to death or make the Leopard retreat by punching it on the nose. [KH: Well, at least it's better advice than, 'be vigilant'] There are probably few people capable of such feats, but since one does not always carry firearms in many of the areas where Leopards are found, one might well keep in mind that in the extremely unlikely event of being attacked by a Leopard, it is possible to defend oneself.


There now, I feel better. You learn something new every day, don't you? Shout out to 'cybertracker' for the advice: http://www.cybertracker.co.za/DangerousAnimals.html.

1 comment:

Wunnovus said...

How can you know you've seen it if you're not supposed to look at it? Hmmm.