At the time, Paul Templer owned a business that took clients down the Zambezi river, Zimbabwe, not far from the Victoria Falls. On the day of the attack, he went down the river in kayaks with clients and Mike, Ben and Evans, three apprentice guides. He had been doing the same route for years so he had learnt how to keep away from a huge two-ton bull that attacked a few times before.
The Guardian reports:
We were near the end of the tour, the light was softening and we were taking in the tranquillity. The solid whack I felt behind me took me by surprise. I turned just in time to see Evans, who had been flung out of his boat, flying through the air. His boat, with his two clients still in it, had been lifted half out of the water on the back of the huge bull hippo.
Mr Templer told the guides and the clients to swin to a cluster of rocks that were nearby. As he too was swimming towards the rocks he suddenly felt like he had gone blind.
I was aware that my legs were surrounded by water, but my top half was almost dry. I seemed to be trapped in something slimy. There was a terrible, sulphurous smell, like rotten eggs, and a tremendous pressure against my chest. My arms were trapped but I managed to free one hand and felt around – my palm passed through the wiry bristles of the hippo’s snout. It was only then that I realised I was underwater, trapped up to my waist in his mouth.
The guide freed himself once and then swam towards one of the guides but the hippo got him again.
I swam towards Evans, but the hippo struck again, dragging me back under the surface. I’d never heard of a hippo attacking repeatedly like this, but he clearly wanted me dead.
Hippos’ mouths have huge tusks, slicing incisors and a bunch of smaller chewing teeth. It felt as if the bull was making full use of the whole lot as he mauled me – a doctor later counted almost 40 puncture wounds and bite marks on my body. The bull simply went berserk, throwing me into the air and catching me again, shaking me like a dog with a doll.
The hippo spat him out and the apprentice Mike paddled him to safety.
I was a mess. My left arm was crushed to a pulp, blood poured from the wounds in my chest and when he examined my back, Mike discovered a wound so savage that my lung was visible.
Luckily, he knew first aid and was able to seal the wounds in my chest with the wrapper from a tray of snacks, which almost certainly stopped my lungs from collapsing and saved my life.
The encounter with angry hippo cost Mr Templer his left arm but he survived