The family of a 2-year-old boy who was mauled by a leopard at Kruger National Park's (KNP) staff quarters on Wednesday evening have still not come to terms with his death.
Speaking to News24 on Friday, the boy's father, 35-year-old Isaiah Ntimane, who is employed as a water operator at the park, said the incident has not sunk yet in his family's minds.
"He was my last born child. I was expecting a lot from him. Who knows maybe he was going to be a pilot or a doctor?
"He left us too soon. The incident is still in my mind and whenever I close my eyes, I hear his screams. What happened was bad and painful. I am still in pains emotionally and why my son?" he asked.
Little Courtney Ntimane was rushed to hospital following the attack, but was certified dead upon arrival at Shongwe Hospital.
The toddler and his mother, who live in Bushbuckridge, had apparently visited Ntimane at the park. Ntimane reportedly told The Star he was having a braai with his wife and son when the incident happened.
"I was walking to my cottage and he [Courtney] followed me. I didn't notice that he was behind me, because I left him there playing with his mother's phone. And just when I got to my cottage and was closing the door behind me, I heard screams coming from outside," he reportedly said.
The father of four, including Courtney, said the leopard was finally put down, after it scaled a fence and disappeared.
"The animal was traced and put down to prevent it from hurting other people," he told News24.
KNP spokesperson Isaac Phaahla confirmed that, following the attack, two leopards were shot in the immediate vicinity of the scene. Phaahla said the post-mortem on the leopards revealed that both animals were in good shape and were not desperate animals. He called it an "opportunistic attack".
South African National Parks has reassured visitors to the park that the area is safe. It urged people to be vigilant when in the park.
The park said it was "an unfortunate risk that staff experience when having to live and work in environments like the KNP. These events are very rare occurrences but always tragic when they do occur."
SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni extended his condolences to the family: "Our prayers are with the family during this trying time. We wish them strength and will give them all the support they need as an organisation".
Little Courtney's funeral will be held on Sunday in Mkhulu, in Mpumalanga.
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