The three-year-old son of a British scientist may have permanent brain damage after he and his mother were attacked by a giraffe, his family said last night.
Finn Williams and his mother Katy, 35, are fighting for their lives following the attack at the South African nature reserve where they live.
Katy Williams was waiting outside with son Finn for her husband Sam to arrive home when they startled the animal and its young calf.
Conservation biologist Williams arrived while the female giraffe was still attacking them and chased it off.
Mother and son were airlifted to hospital from the Blyde Wildlife Estate, an upmarket gated reserve with 154 homes protected by electric fencing and security guards.
Both had operations, with doctors working to release pressure on Finn’s brain. His US-born mother suffered multiple injuries.
Both were in a critical but stable condition at hospital in Joburg yesterday.
Sam Williams’s aunt, Anne Oliver, said Finn may have been left with permanent brain damage. "We understand that Finn had an operation to remove a blood clot on the brain. We’ve been told that he will have brain damage," she said.
"The last we heard was that Katy was having surgery and she is in an induced coma. She’s got multiple injuries."
Oliver, 61, added: "As a family we are all very, very upset. We just feel so helpless because of how far away they are."
Williams, 36, said it was a "difficult time" but he regarded the attack on Monday as "an unfortunate act of nature where the giraffe saw his wife and son as a threat to her young one".
The academic had been on a trail run on the estate in Limpopo.
Family lawyer Marina Botha said: "Sam Williams found his wife and son still under attack by the giraffe within a mere 150metres of their family home, where Finn normally waits for his father to return from his run."
The 394-hectare estate offers a clubhouse, gym, tennis courts and restaurant to its residents. Antelope, giraffe, wildebeest, hippopotamus and crocodile are among the species free to roam the estate.
Riaan Cilliers, the Blyde Wildlife estate manager, said: "We are all in shock about this very sad incident and we assure the family that they are in our prayers."
Details of the attack were unclear yesterday. Giraffes are normally docile but can use their head and neck as a club if threatened.
Williams and her son may also have been trampled.
Her father Jack Standish, who was flying from the US to South Africa on Thursday, wrote on Facebook that he felt "helpless" as his "wonderful daughter and loving grandson" were operated on in hospital.
Plans were apparently being made to move the giraffe and her young from the estate.
Williams, who was born in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, has two degrees in biology from Manchester University.
He received his PhD at Durham in 2012 and was now a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Venda.
His wife has also carried out extensive research in animal-related fields and was in a post-doctorate position at the University of Mpumalanga.
The couple met at Durham and have lived in Africa for about 10 years, the last four years in South Africa, and before this in Zimbabwe. - Daily Mail