Former Miss SA recovers after hippo attack

By Time of article published Dec 25, 2003

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Doctors on Wednesday were treating former Miss South Africa Diana Tilden-Davis for an infection, following a hippopotamus attack in the Botswana Delta earlier this month.

Tilden-Davis, who won the pageant in 1991, was attacked last Thursday while paddling in the remote northern reaches of the Delta, where she and her husband, Chris Kruger, run a safari company.

Kruger said in a statement on Wednesday: "On December 17 Diana was poling a mekorro (dugout canoe) in one of the narrow channels in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.

"Diana came around a corner and surprised a hippo that was in the channel. The hippo attacked the canoe and Diana was bitten in the lower leg just above the ankle."

She was air-lifted to Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.

"Doctors managed to set the shinbone properly and are presently fighting the infection caused by the bite," said Kruger.

"There is a severe drought in Botswana at the moment and all the grazing animals, including hippo, are quite stressed because of the lack of grazing grass.

"This factor together with the fact that the waters are normally low this time of the year, giving the hippo less chance to move away from human activity into deeper waters, could be one of the reasons why this hippo was so aggressive."

Kruger said: "Di is doing fine. She is very positive and enthusiastic and I think seeing her daughter yesterday for the first time since the attack made her very happy. We are all just hoping for the best."

Tilden-Davis was also second runner up in the Miss World contest of the same year and her career includes roles in the horror film Howling IV and the action adventure movie Captive Rage.

According to writer Doreen Levin, who traced the history of the beauty pageant, she hails from a long line of beauty queens with her grandmother Thelma Fairlie winner of a Marlene Dietrich lookalike national contest organised by the now defunct Sunday Express. Her older sister Janine has also won the Miss South Africa competition, and her sister Leanne was a finalist.

Meanwhile, instead of a quiet Christmas in the bush, the family will spend the day at Tilden-Davis' bedside.

"She's still in intensive care, so we're just going to relax with her," Chris said.

This is the second hippopotamus attack in Botswana in December. Earlier this month a Cape Town woman, Janice Simpson, was killed by a hippopotamus while on her honeymoon in the Okavango Delta.

Kruger National Park spokesperson Raymond Travers said: "Hippos are very dangerous. More people are killed by hippos than any of the other big five in Africa. They come out of the water at night to go into the bush for food and 90 percent of the attacks take place as they are walking into their feeding grounds.

"People must be very careful and if they're in a park they must stay in their car as a human can't outrun a hippo." - Sapa

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