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John Varty: I felt like a rag doll

2012-04-05 09:30
Bloemfontein – Filmmaker and conservation legend John Varty has told of his experience after being mauled by one of his tigers on his tiger farm, Tiger Canyons, outside Philippolis.

"I felt like a rag doll being torn open when Corbett tried to pull me through the fenced gate in the tiger camp. I realised these were my last moments on earth."

Varty, 61, described in detail how he was attacked by Corbett, his tiger, last Wednesday.

'Watching his every move'

In a newsletter on his website, Varty told how he and a film team from Aquavision Productions had made preparations to record footage of the female tiger Julie in the camp next to Corbett and his sister Panna.

Varty, who's recuperating in the Mediclinic in Bloemfontein, told how he battled to lock the gate after they had finished.

He saw Panna on a rock about 120m away while Corbett was lying in the grass about 15m away, watching his every move. "I turned around to walk to the vehicle when Corbett stormed the camp's wire gate."

The tiger grabbed Varty with his huge claws through the gate's horizontal barbed wire and pinned him against the gate, trying to pull him into the camp.

"The only thing going through my thoughts at the time was to use the stick or the hand pistol that I had on me at the time, but Corbett was too fast and too strong."

Pretending to be dead

Julie Brown from Aquavision Productions rushed to help Varty. "She grabbed my legs and it was like a tug of war between her and Corbett.

"I kept thinking I had to protect my neck and head."

"For a moment I thought of pretending to be dead."

Other members of the film team also came to help. A cameraman managed to hit Corbett on the head with a steel pipe. "For people who had never worked with tigers before, the film team performed miracles and saved my life."

The drive on wet, uneven terrain along a dirt road to Philippolis took 30 minutes and was a painful experience, said Varty.

Dr André Loubser, a trauma surgeon at Mediclinic Bloemfontein, was very satisfied with Varty's condition. "There is no infection."

Loubser said Varty would remain in the high care unit for now. On Sunday a decision will be taken on whether he could be moved to a general ward.

Varty's ex-wife and TV personality Gillian van Houten told reporters last week that they won't get rid of the tiger Corbett, and that "the attack was just about one male challenging another male".
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