Woman 'thrown around like ragdoll’ in mouth of hippo terrified after nightmare experience

Natasha Vrany, feeding one of the tame hippos, is recovering at home after being attacked by the animal. Picture: Supplied

Natasha Vrany, feeding one of the tame hippos, is recovering at home after being attacked by the animal. Picture: Supplied

Published Dec 12, 2021


Pretoria - A woman was “thrown around like a ragdoll” in the mouth of a hippo at a farm in Hoedspruit, Limpopo, where visitors are able to interact with two tame hippos.

Natasha Vrany, 39, of Alberton, is recuperating at home following two operations after her terrifying experience last month. She is so terrified after her nightmare experience that she cannot sleep at night.

Her cousin, Belinda Newman, 62, who was also attacked by the hippo, also had to undergo an operation following her ordeal.

The cousins were visiting the world-famous establishment of Tony and Shirley Joubert, the owners of the two hippos, Jessica, 21 and Richie, also known as Seun, aged 9.

The two hippos are like children in the home, and visitors are often captured feeding them treats such as sweet potatoes.

Vrany claimed she was attacked by Richie at the premises of the Jouberts.

Tony, however, told the Pretoria News that the attack happened outside their premises, next to the Blyde River and that Richie was definitely not the culprit.

According to him, it was an unknown young bull who had attacked the women. He said he was the one who saved their lives.

Vrany, who had a different story to tell, said Newman knew the Jouberts for more than 20 years and visited the establishment called Jessica’s Place on November 12.

She said the attack happened the following day while they were sitting on the Jouberts’ lawn.

“Tony had no weapon or rifle with him. We felt quite safe and confident that there would be no issues.”

“All of a sudden, Richie came dashing out of the river. My back was facing the river, but I heard the stamping on the ground. As I got on my feet, Richie pushed me down to the ground and proceeded to bite both my legs and throw me around like a rag doll. He had both legs in his mouth, biting harder with every second.

Vrany said she tried to stick her nails into his left eye, but it only made him bite down harder.

“Richie started carrying me down towards the river as I screamed to Tony to please not let him take me to the water. Tony was slapping Richie and saying, ‘Seun moenie’ (Seun don’t).“

Vrany said, at that point, her cousin jumped on Richie's back to get him to release her (Vrany)

“He opened his mouth softly, and I was able to fall out of his mouth. He then turned on Belinda, pushing her to the ground, and started ripping her stomach to pieces.”

She added that at this point, although injured, she ran to the house to ask Shirley to bring a rifle.

“As I got to the kitchen, I passed out. When I woke up, Belinda was standing over me holding her intestines in her hand to try and getthem to stay inside.”

According to Vrany, she asked Tony to give her her phone so she could call the paramedics. “He just kept saying it was a scratch and we will be fine. He also agreed to hand over my phone if we say the incident happened outside his property and that it was a wild hippo who had attacked us.”

Vrany said she, meanwhile, screamed to her cousin that she was going to die.

“While the paramedics were attending to us, Tony actually brought Jessica the hippo through the house to put her to bed on the veranda. I was so shocked, and so were the paramedics.”

The cousins were rushed to a nearby hospital where they were operated on.

“It was the most traumatic experience of my entire life, and I still have nightmares. My pain is excruciating, and I'm scared for my life,” Vrany said.

Tony Joubert, meanwhile, maintained that the incident occurred outside his premises, and he said when he saw the “wild hippo” getting hold of Vrany, he jumped into action.

He said he took a heavy rock and hit the hippo’s head with it. “I managed to hit him above the eye, where there is soft bone, and he dropped her. I saved her life while putting my own life at risk.”

Tony said after attacking the women, the hippo disappeared back into the water.

According to Joubert, he ran back to the house to summon help, where he saw Jessica sleeping soundly on the veranda while Richie was also home, on his blanket. He vehemently denied Vrany’s claims that he would not hand her her phone to call for help.

He said there were many hippos in the area, but his two tame animals were definitely not involved in the incident.

Pretoria News