A toddler has been viciously mauled to death by a leopard at the staff living quarters in Kruger National Park (KNP).
The tragic incident occurred 20:00 on Wednesday at the Malane technical services living quarters.
“KNP can confirm that a leopard killed a staff member’s son last night,” said the statement issued early on Thursday.
“The toddler was only 30 months old. The incident took place at 20:00 and the boy was certified dead by doctors at the Shongwe Hospital after being rushed there by family members.”
South African National Parks chief executive Fundisile Mketeni extended his condolences to the family of the child in a statement issued by the organisation, alongside Kruger’s.
According to him, the event was sad and tragic and he wished the family strength in this trying time.
He said: “Our prayers and thoughts are with the family during this trying time, we wish them strength and will give them all the support they need as an organization.
“It is never easy to lose a loved one especially under such tragic circumstances, this is the risk we live with on a daily basis as we help conserve our species for the benefit of all. May the young toddler’s soul rest in eternal peace.
This is the risk we live with on a daily basis as we help conserve our species for the benefit of all. May the young toddler’s soul rest in eternal peace.”
In parks like the KNP “predators do interact with tourists and staff and at times it may result in species like leopard getting habituated to people and losing their fear,” Mr Mketeni continued.
“The change in natural behavior can then lead to unfortunate incidents such as this.
“This is an unfortunate risk that staff members experience when having to live and work in environments like the KNP. These events are very rare occurrences but always tragic when they do occur.”
According to reports, the leopard that was responsible for the attack has been tracked down and killed in order to avoid a repeat of such an incident.
According to Mr Mketeni, the park’s management had immediately offered support including counselling to the family of the boy.