A team from Working for Water had a narrow escape while removing alien plants in the Mhalalakhuhu (where the chickens sleep) area. The team was busy on the banks of the river when a lone buffalo bull suddenly charged at them from a short distance away.
The buffalo went past the ranger, Phineas Maluleke, and into the small group of people. Phineas shouted at them to lie down. They all dropped down immediately and the buffalo tried to gore four of them.
It then ran away as if leaving, but turned back and came at them again. It was at this stage that Phineas shot the buffalo. He kept on shooting until the buffalo went down. Luckily, the four people who were actually attacked by the buffalo did not sustain serious injuries.
The buffalo was an old bull and had a wound on its forehead. It is believed that the bull was resting in the dense vegetation on the riverbank when he was surprised by the group of people. A colleague of Phineas, Robert Mathebula, said the reason that no one sustained serious injuries was because Phineas stayed calm throughout the situation and gave the correct advice to the group. Phineas worked as a ranger in the Park at Shongoni and Olifants from 1974 to 2000 when he went on pension.
In 2001 he was approached to help out as a ranger for the Working for Water programme. Phineas has previously been charged by a buffalo. That time his rifle did not go off and the buffalo ran him down, but fortunately continued running and did not turn back to attack him again. According to Johan Oelofse, Section Ranger Mooiplaas, Phineas gave the right instructions.
He said that when charged by a buffalo or a rhino, the best thing to do is go down and lie flat on your stomach. The chances are then limited that you will be hooked by a horn. A buffalo will tr y to hook a person with its horn in an upward movement. When lying down, you might get badly bruised but the chance of a buffalo getting its horn into you is decreased. You are also out of the ranger's way and he can shoot the animal if necessary.
Johan said a buffalo's charge in the bush is like a Putco Bus coming straight at you. 'The reason that no one sustained serious injuries was because Phineas stayed calm throughout the situation and gave the correct advice to the group.'
By Pieter Strauss