Durban - A field ranger who was gored by a rhino at a northern KwaZulu-Natal game reserve is keen to get back to work, although he fears he might not regain the full use of his right hand and shoulder, which bore the brunt of the attack.
Late last week Lance-Corporal Jacob Gumbi, 55, was fighting for his life after being attacked by a female black rhino protecting her calf.
He is still in intensive care at Life Empangeni Garden Clinic, but has recovered enough to talk about his ordeal.
“I recall everything,” Gumbi said of the attack, which has left him with two penetration wounds on the right side of his body.
Gumbi, a ranger of 25 years, and an Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife colleague from Gwambane Camp in the uMkhuze Game Reserve section of iSimangaliso, were on a routine patrol a week ago, when they came across the rhino and her calf.
“We were following it. We just wanted to check how they were doing,” he said.
Without warning, the rhino thundered out of the bush, straight at them. His colleague managed to jump out of the way but the female charged Gumbi and twice gored him with her 40cm horn.
“We saw the rhino charging. I was trying to run away but I fell. I stood up and while I was standing she put her horn through me. I tried to push her away with my hand. I couldn’t even reach for my gun,” he said.
Gumbi has a wounds on his right shoulder and another underneath his right arm.
His ribs and right lung were also injured.
He was conscious when the paramedics arrived about 15 minutes later, at 3.20pm.
Gumbi was still conscious when he was placed in the ambulance and taken to Bethesda Hospital in nearby Ubombo.
After he was stabilised, he was transferred to the Ngwelezana Hospital near Empangeni and on January 31, he was taken to the Life Empangeni Garden Clinic.
His brother, Israel, and his wife, Gladys, were at his bedside on Wednesday.
“Why couldn’t the rhino attack a poacher instead?” Israel joked.
Asked if he had forgiven the rhino, Gumbi laughed, although – bearing in mind the nature of his wounds – that laugh may have hurt.
He said he had no choice but to forgive because, having worked with animals for so long, he really loved them.
Gumbi said he was not scared to go back into the bush, and would not ask for a desk job.
“I’m keen to go back to work,” he said.
His family is from Ubombo but he lives at the game reserve while he is on duty.
The hospital did not know when he would be discharged but staff said they were satisfied with his recovery and expected him to be out of ICU by the end of the week.
A hospital spokesperson said: “He was in serious condition when he arrived here, but he is recovering nicely.
“His lung had collapsed. He is extubated from the ventilator now but still on continuous oxygen, mainly for the pain.
“He is in ICU as he requires constant care.”