17 January 2013

Zambia: Isaac Kaonga: Lucky to Be Alive After Croc Attack

WHAT started off as an ordinary normal day on New Year's Eve for eight-year-old Isaac Kaonga, who has a passion for fishing turned out to be one of his worst days ever in his fishing expeditions.

It was on New Year's Eve when Isaac as usual set out with his friends to go fishing on the crocodile infested Kafue river and little did he know that on that fateful day, he would not be catching fish but instead would be caught by a bloodthirsty crocodile.

Neither Isaac nor his colleagues were aware of the manuvoures by the crocodile that day because the party had previously fished from that point without encountering any trouble and of course they also took safety issues for granted which they traded with misadventure.

Being young the boys, did not wonder into the deep waters of the river instead they were just playing on the shallow waters along the banks of the river hoping to catch some fish there.

While Isaac was washing his hands, a crocodile suddenly pushed him into the river and from then on, a battle ensued with the beast.

Isaac , the fourth born child of Judith Namfukwe and Divanson Kaonga of Bulangililo Township, narrated this ordeal from his hospital bed, saying that while fishing, he decided to wash his hands in the river and immediately he saw the crocodile fast approaching as he knelt down by the banks.

He thought of fleeing but was not swift enough to elude the reptile as it quickly pushed him into the river and started dragging him to what appeared like a hole under the deep waters amidst struggle.

Upon seeing that he was being dragged to a hole, Isaac started wrestling with the reptile, managed to free himself and swam to the shore but the reptile went for him a second time with open jaws and mauled his ankle.

"I was with my friends fishing on the banks of the Kafue River. I decided to wash my hands and that was when I saw the crocodile coming towards me. I tried to move away but was surprised that it pushed me into the river and started dragging me to a hole.

"I started wrestling with it and at that time I heard two voices within me, one telling me to hold the crocodile by the tail while the other voice was telling not to because I was going to offend it more, I followed the first inner voice and grabbed it by the tail," he said

It was actually the tail technique that worked for him and Isaac managed to free himself from the jaws of the reptile and swam to the shore but in the process, it mauled his ankle leaving a deep and painful wound on his leg.

Isaac, a grade five pupil at Kitwe's Kawama Basic School managed to wrestle his way out of the reptile's grip with determination but is currently admitted to Kitwe Central Hospital (KCH's) Kafue ward where he is nursing a serious wound which he says is too painful and sometimes robs him of sweet sleep.

He says ever since he was admitted in hospital he misses his friends and school and wished that he could report at the same time with his friends in his new grade.

Isaac who could afford to pull up a smile at the time of the interview, probably a courageous one, described the crocodile that attacked him as a huge creature and that it used a lot of force to just drag his little body into the deep water before he started struggling with it.

But he is also grateful that his five friends despite being young did not abandon him but put up a spirited fight to save his dear life which could have been cut short without their intervention.

His friends did not abandon him at the most crucial hour, they quickly mobilised themselves, picked up sticks and stones which they used to hit the reptile repeatedly.

While others were busy hitting the crocodile with sticks and stones, others were frantically helping to pull Isaac away from the jaws of the reptile until it finally let go off his leg.

With blood oozing from the injury on the ankle, Isaac who was now in agony was carried home on the back of one of his friends.

The moment the unsuspecting father saw him in that state, he hauled a few unsavory words at the young lad and was almost lashing him for leaving home on a day such as this one when people were bubbling with excitement in anticipation of the New Year.

Mr Kaonga initially thought Isaac was just trying to spin a bad joke when he saw him perched on the back of one his friends but when he saw that the boy was actually in pain and that blood was oozing from his leg, he quickly made arrangements for him to be taken to KCH.

Isaac's mother, who was at his bedside at the time of the interview, said it is was a miracle that her son was still alive and had survived the crocodile attack with a mere wound because very few children of his age if any or indeed elderly people have escaped such attacks alive.

Ms Namfukwe says on New Year's Eve, she went to attend a funeral when she received a call that her son was admitted at the hospital and was required to come back home.

She says the news of her son being admitted to hospital shocked her because at the time she left home for the funeral, all her family members were in good health and none of them appeared to be unwell.

A congregant at United Church of Zambia (UCZ) Kwacha East branch, Ms Namfukwe does not rule out the work of the hand of God in the entire episode and says it was God who gave the boy and his friends the boldness to fight the crocodile and overpower it.

Ms Namfukwe who has six children, three boys and three girls, was grateful to the almighty God for giving Isaac another chance to live otherwise it would have been a different story today.

"I am grateful to God for his grace that my son is alive after wrestling with the crocodile in the manner that he did."

"It's a miracle that this boy is still alive because many people do not survive such attacks , so it's only the almighty God that gave him the strength together with his friends to fight and over-come the reptile," she said amid sobs.

Ms Namfukwe says the wound on her son's leg is deep and he still experiences extreme pain especially at night.

She is also grateful to the medical staff at KCH for the care that they have shown to her son by washing the wound with antiseptic reagents and regularly cleaning it to ensure that it does not get contaminated by bacteria.

Ms Namfukwe, a housewife says the boy has been put on pain killers to ease the pain and appealed to well wishers and sympathisers to assist in any way they could as medical staff have advised the family to give Isaac a lot of fruits and fluids.

She says her husband is not in any formal employment and depends on part-time jobs.

KCH public relations manager Grey Chishimba said the boy was currently admitted to hospital nursing serious.

Mr Chishimba said the boy had been put on antibiotics and the wound was being cleaned daily with an antiseptic to prevent it from developing bacterial infection.

And the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) public relations officer Wilfred Moonga said the attack on Isaac was regrettable.

Mr Moonga has appealed to members of the public who frequent the banks of the Kafue river to be cautious especially with the onset of the rains because most rivers and streams are full..

He says it is difficult for one to see a reptile approaching at a distance when the waters are not clear due to erosion and warned the public to be careful and avoid inactive places where such creatures are likely to hide.

He further appealed to members of the public to report such incidences to the nearest ZAWA offices so that the Authority could respond quickly and avoid any human -animal conflict from occurring.

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