Marie Strachan and Sinegugu Ndlovu

A Durban pupil is recovering in hospital after being attacked by a hyena at the Sontuli Camp in Imfolozi Game Reserve yesterday morning.

Grade 7 pupil Nicholas Hudson, 13, was part of a group of 40 Thomas More Senior Primary School pupils on a sports tour of Zululand.

College principal Shane Cuthbertson said the hyena tore into Nicholas’s tent in an incident witnessed by other pupils.

“He was bitten in the face and head while sleeping in the tent. A Netcare911 ambulance was immediately dispatched and he was taken to the Bay Hospital in Richards Bay. He underwent surgery, which was completed at 11am yesterday.

“While there was extensive tissue damage, the doctors report that there does not appear to be damage to the skull or underlying brain tissue,” he said.

Cuthbertson said Nicholas was stable after his surgery. “I spoke to his parents earlier to find out how he was doing and they told me that doctors had managed to repair his face,” he said.

“Nicholas’s parents were traumatised by the incident. We are all devastated by it all. The school is standing together in supporting the parents. There’s no finger pointing, we all prayed together. I can’t speculate on the cause (of the attack). The hyena didn’t seem to look for food, it just bit the boy,” he said.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokeswoman Maureen Zimu said it was suspected that there may have been food in Nicholas’s tent, which may have attracted the scavenger.

“The teachers as well as Ezemvelo staff were there and nothing else (but food) would have provoked the animal to go into the tent, but we are doing a full investigation,” Zimu said.

According to Zimu, staff at the park had warned the pupils that they were in a “Big Five” reserve and that there were dangerous animals around, not to take food to their tents, to keep the tents zipped up and not to walk around outside.

She said that the attack was an isolated incident.

“The last attack by an animal on one of our visitors was about three years ago, when a man was attacked by a leopard while he and his group were braaiing at Mpila Camp,” said Zimu.

Cuthbertson said he did not know if the pupils had been told not to take food to their tents.

“If the hyena was looking for food, it would not have bitten the boy in the face while he was sleeping; it would have gone for the food,” he said.

Cuthbertson said the school’s trips to “safe venues” were not under threat, but future bushveld visits would be discussed.