Johannesburg - Chantal Beyer and her husband looked almost relaxed as they stood with their backs towards a pair of rhinos and posed for a photo. But seconds later, their honeymoon turned into a nightmare.
What the photographs don’t show is the moment when one of the rhinos charged the slightly built Beyer, its horn goring into her, causing one of her lungs to collapse, and breaking several of her ribs.
The family of the 24-year-old blame Alex Richter, the owner of the Aloe Ridge Hotel and Game Reserve, who had apparently prompted the nine guests on last Saturday’s game drive, which included a child, to disembark from the vehicle and “get a little closer” to the rhinos for better photographs.
Yesterday, Beyer was discharged from Netcare’s Krugersdorp Hospital where she spent nearly a week recovering from the horrific attack.
“We’re overjoyed she is at home,” Thom Peeters, Beyer’s uncle, told the Saturday Star yesterday.
“We discovered she had a light dose of pneumonia and that there was fluid on her lung because it had collapsed and she was not using it. They put her on oxygen the whole of Thursday and forced her to do exercises.
“Yesterday the doctors found her lung starting to expand nicely, that the fluid had drained and that she was recovering nicely,” he said, adding that the BCom student would now recuperate at her home in Florida.
The couple were married in December. They received a voucher to go to the hotel, situated in the Cradle of Humankind and which advertises itself as a “Sol Kerzner-built hotel”, for a two-night stay.
“They had a free game drive on Saturday and were excited. Richter was the driver. Before stopping at the rhinos, he caught a lone baboon and fed it a peppermint out of his hand. He (Richter) then veered off the track and stopped 100m away from the rhinos.
“He got out and threw out food for them, whether it was pellets or mealies, I don’t know. They came a little closer. He told the guests it was safe to climb out of the game viewing vehicle for a photo… he encouraged them, notwithstanding they were hesitant and quite fearful. He told them where to stand and took photos of them,” explained Peeters.
“When Sven and Chantal climbed off, they went to the back of the vehicle, standing at the position where Richter told them to stand. When one of the rhinos was around a metre away, Richter grunted at it to move off.
“That rhino lunged at Chantal. Sven looked around and instinctively drew Chantal back but it was too late. The horn had already penetrated under her right breast 12cm or 13cm upwards towards the shoulder.
“Sven lifted her up. She’s very small and light. The rhino backed off and came at her again. But Sven pulled her under the elevated portion of the vehicle.”
A fellow guest called emergency services and later drove the couple out of the reserve to the nearest main road where an ambulance awaited them.
“We’re not happy about what has happened, but we want to raise awareness that this kind of thing doesn’t happen to innocent people again,” said Peeters.
“The rhino are wondrous animals. They were in their habitat and we were encroaching on them. We just want others to enjoy them in a safe environment.”
Richter declined to comment yesterday.
“They have not phoned at all to inquire about Chantal,” said Peeters, adding the family would consider taking legal action once they received Beyer’s final medical reports.