Clinic Stories

Beware of Jessica

Kruger National Park in South Africa is a 7500-square-mile expanse of free-roaming
animals—giraffes, elephants, gazelles, lions, wart hogs, wildebeests, baboons, rhinoceroses, hippos, crocodiles and many, many more. It is truly a fall-over-backward experience, a wild place where the animals deserve respect.

Unfortunately, the animals do not always get respect. While I was there someone was killed by a crocodile. Two men were diving for golf balls in a lake at a resort when one joined the food chain. Driving after dark is not permitted because of the danger of hitting something bigger than a car. A guide was given permission to leave the park at night because his father was hospitalized. He died after striking a hippo.

I stayed in a tent while at the park. Because of an Ebola virus outbreak in neighboring countries tourism was off and I and a few staff were the only ones in the tenting section.
I was told to be careful of all sorts of creatures going back and forth to the central lodge. While showering in the bamboo wash station I heard a racket and peaked through the poles to learn that I was surrounded by wildebeests. I heard grunting wart hogs pass the tent nightly. Unless you want a monkey sleepover, the tent flaps must be kept closed.

An ad invited tourists to come and see Jessica the Hippo. I asked the guide if he had seen Jessica, the “sweetest hippo in the world”. He had, but said Jessica had killed her male owner a couple of months earlier. It made me wonder which part of the equation was the meal ticket. The report was exaggerated. Jessica did not kill anyone but had attacked two handlers within a month.

The Kruger is a great place to visit, but don't let your guard down.

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