A popular South African safari guide died in his girlfriend’s arms after being gored in the backside by a massive mother elephant near Kruger National Park.
“We are all very traumatized,” said Trevor Jordan, CEO of Thornybush Waterside Lodge where the late ranger, named Sheldon Hooper, had worked. He said the guide “was exceptionally good at his job and knew elephants very well.”
The tragedy occurred on Aug. 19 while Hooper, 27, and a colleague were inspecting the park’s perimeter fence and happened upon a herd of three female elephants and six calfs, SA People reported. And while there weren’t supposed to be wild animals on the lodge’s grounds, one of the pachyderms had somehow snuck past the electrified barrier.
Hooper was only about 65 feet away from the animals, which was likely too “close to a six-month-old calf,” Jordan told TimesLive.
The matriarch reportedly became spooked by Hooper’s presence and charged him, causing the terrified ranger to flee for his life. Unfortunately, he only made it 30 feet before the 3.5-ton tusker overtook him, and rammed his buttocks, reported the Mirror.
Jordan recalls that the tusks penetrated his “knee and just above his heart,” leaving him with two gaping holes that were “bleeding profusely.”
At that point, the elephant fled the scene, whereupon a still-conscious Hooper phoned the lodge manager as well as his girlfriend and fellow park employee, Rebecca Rowles, the Mirror reported.
Unfortunately, while paramedics arrived as soon as they could, the guide “succumbed to his injuries within 20 minutes,” according to Jordan. He reportedly died in Rowles’ arms.
After the attack, Jordan consulted experts on what to do about the culprit. He said they ultimately decided against “euthanizing the elephant” as subsequent investigations revealed that the animals “were relaxed and showed no aggression.”
The lodge has since posted a heartfelt Facebook tribute to Hooper, who they describe as a dedicated conservationist who possessed “incredible kindness,” an “infectious smile, and love of the bush.”
“Sheldon’s life is a celebration of his passions and he is sorely missed by all,” they wrote.
Hooper’s colleagues, guests and friends also took to the platform to offer their condolences.
“You are one of the most genuine & kind hearted people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and I’m so happy I was able to work alongside you,” wrote former colleague Kerry Lee Roberg.
Photographer Dallas Dahms added, “I only had the pleasure of your company for 6 days in 2016, but in that intersection of our lives spent chasing leopards and other beautiful things around, you left an indelible imprint on me.”
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