Animals

Woman, 39, is ‘thrown around like a rag doll’ by enraged hippo at South African petting farm 

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A woman claims an angry hippo “thrown her like a rag doll” which also “rips her cousin’s stomach” at a South African pet farm.

Natasha Franny, 39, of Alberton, claims that she and her cousin Belinda Newman, 62, were attacked by a hippo while visiting Jessica Bliss in Hoedspruit, Limpopo, on November 14.

The world-famous nature reserve, run by Tony and Shirley Joubert, is home to two hippos – Jessica, 21, and nine-year-old Richie, whom Frannie claims she and her cousin attacked.

The hippos were rescued by the couple when they were young and have lived “like children” in the house ever since, while visitors can feed Jessica and give her a strut, according to the sanctuary’s website.

Ms Franny told The Independent Online (IOL) that she was sitting with her cousin in Jupiters Park when Ritchie ran out of a nearby river and attacked them, claiming he threw her on the ground and “rip” Ms Newman’s stomach to “pieces”.

But the owner, Mr. Joubert, claimed that Ritchie did not attack the two women, saying that a wild hippopotamus was responsible for the horrific ordeal. Wild hippos live in the nearby Blyde River.

Natasha Franny (pictured petting a hippopotamus), 39, of Alberton, claims that she and her cousin Belinda Newman, 62, were attacked by hippo Richie while visiting Jessica Bliss in Hoedspruit, Limpopo, on November 14

Natasha Franny (pictured petting a hippopotamus), 39, of Alberton, claims that she and her cousin Belinda Newman, 62, were attacked by hippo Richie while visiting Jessica Bliss in Hoedspruit, Limpopo, on November 14

Mr. Joubert also claimed that the incident did not take place on his premises and said he had put his life in danger in an attempt to protect the two women from wild animals.

Ms Franny said she has had two surgeries since the attack, while her cousin Neumann, who has known the Joubert couple for more than 20 years, also had one.

Ms Vrany left Jessica’s Place in a one-star review on TripAdvisor after the incident, detailing what happened in the alleged attack and urging others not to attend the nature reserve.

Speaking to IOL about the attack, Ms Franny alleged that Ritchie ran from the river and pushed her to the ground, saying she tried to put her fingernails in his left eye to stop the attack.

“When I got to my feet, she said, Richie pushed me to the ground and proceeded to bite my legs and throw me like a rag doll. He had both legs in his mouth, biting hard with every second.

Ms. Franny claimed that Ritchie carried her toward the river while she was screaming for help, while Mr. Joubert, who did not have a weapon at the time, was slapping the animal.

She claimed that her cousin jumped on the hippo’s back in an attempt to get him to release her, but added that the animal turned on Ms. Newman after letting her go.

“Then he turned on Belinda, pushed her to the ground, and started ripping her stomach to shreds,” she added.

Although injured, she allegedly ran home to ask Ms. Joubert to bring a gun outside, but said she passed out when she got to the kitchen.

Ms Franny claimed that when she awoke, Ms Newman was standing on top of her “grabbing her intestines in one hand in an attempt to get her to stay inside”.

While they were waiting for an ambulance, Mr. Joubert allegedly brought Jessica, a world-famous hippo who also lives in the nature reserve, to “put her to bed” on the veranda.

Ms Franny claimed she thought she would die after the attack and said she and her cousin were taken to a nearby location after the accident, where they underwent surgery.

“It was the most traumatic experience of my entire life, and I still have nightmares,” she added.

But Mr. Joubert claimed instead that the incident took place outside his building, and said he hit the animal with a heavy stone after he saw it grabbed Ms Franny.

“I managed to hit him above his eye, where there is a soft bone, and he knocked it down, saving her life while endangering my own,” he said.

Mr. Joubert said the wild animal again disappeared into the water after the attack, while claiming to have returned home for help.

He claimed that Jessica was already sleeping on the veranda when he got home, while Ritchie was also in the house. He insisted that his animals were not involved in the accident.

He added that there are a lot of wild hippos living in the same area and along the Blyde River.

MailOnline contact Jessica Bliss and Ms. Franny for further comments.

Mr. and Mrs. Joubert rescued world-famous Jessica as a baby in March 2000 after devastating floods left her a lonely orphan on the banks of the Blyde River.

Park ranger Mr. Joubert brought Jessica home to his wife, where they raised her and the animal has lived ever since.

Jessica, whose weight is more than 1500 kg, lives freely in the nature reserve and is allowed into the kitchen of the spouses, where she lives like her “daughter”.

In 2012, after a severe storm and flash flood, Mr. Joubert found Richie, who was only a few hours old at the time, and after they could not find his mother, he brought the baby hippo back to the nature reserve to join Jessica.

Since they rescued her, Jessica has become world famous, having appeared on BBC News, in the South African film Mr. Bones and in an Animal Planet documentary named after her.

She also appeared as a guest on the first season of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! Australia In 2015, Chrissy Swan and Maureen McCormick helped win a box of chocolates.

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