He had a long neck, Officer

We’ve all heard about South Africa’s crime rate, but in a worrying twist, it seems that even the local wildlife is now getting in on the act:

Pietermaritzburg – Seventy-year-old Schalk Hagen died without telling anyone exactly what happened to him. Now the prime suspect in his death is a giraffe. Hagen had gone for his usual morning walk at Bisley Nature Reserve in March.

The only thing he uttered to his distraught wife on his return from his walk, with blood spurting from a deep head wound, was “I ran away*“. Hagen later died of his injuries.

Prompted by the story of Hagen’s death in The Witness last week, a reader told on Monday how a bull giraffe attacked and chased instructors and patrons around at the Canterbury stables, the same month Hagen was injured. Hagen’s wife, Aletha, added that he and his 16-year-old grand-daughter had previously gone for a walk in the reserve when a giraffe, accompanied by a sibling, charged at them aggressively.

“I suppose it was chasing them away from the group. When he came home wounded that day, the first thing I asked him was if he had been attacked by a giraffe**, but he was unable to reply,” said Aletha.

Hagen had suffered a cracked skull and a deep head wound which received 14 stitches.

And then, as ever in South African news, the amusing side to this tragic tale, which also goes some way to explain why sit-com writers spend so much time scanning our local newspapers in search of novel, yet implausible, ideas.

The story of Hagen’s mysterious injury sparked Ross McCann’s memory of a giraffe attack at the Canterbury stables, a riding school at the Bisley Valley Nature reserve.

“I am of the firm belief that Hagen was attacked by a giraffe.” He said a giraffe left marks on a tree at the stables when it attacked instructors and trainees.

Instructor Francois Hugo said the bull giraffe chased more than five people around the stables. “I was with my colleague and four people, some of whom were training in the sand arena. It charged my colleague who ran into the outside toilet for hiding. But the giraffe stuck its head into the toilet through the hole above the door. It was trying to head-butt him, so I tried to distract it. It immediately came after me as I ran and hid behind the tree. It was a bull giraffe, it smelt horrible, and had big black spots, darker than spots on other giraffes. We were separated just by the tree’s trunk.”

Hugo said the giraffe attacked him using its horns but missed and dug them into the tree trunk. Two marks are still visible***. Hugo admitted he was scared and ran for his life, followed by his trainees, as the giraffe chased after them.

I’m picturing Michael Palin as colleague cowering in outside toilet
South African “comedian” Leon Schuster will have to be the giraffe. It’s the law.

* not fast enough, you didn’t.
** as you would…
*** neatly comparable with the number of horns on your average giraffe.