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Man punches a lion in the face as it tries to eat him in Botswana

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Photo: Botswana Wild Bird Trust

A wildlife researcher who was attacked by a starving lion in Africa punched the animal in the face as his friends threw elephant dung at it and hit it with a truck in order to save his life.

Gotz Neef, 32, was sleeping in his tent in the Okavango Delta in Botswana on December 7 when the emaciated predator pounced and tried to kill him.

Dr Rainer Von Brandis, a fellow researcher sleeping nearby, threw elephant dung and branches at the lion before hitting it with a piece of tree in a desperate attempt to save his friend’s life – while naked from the waist down.

Head ranger Tomalets Setlabosha then threw a flash-bang – intended to frighten away elephants – at the big cat before running it over with his jeep, which finally scared the animal back into the bush.

Neef was rushed to hospital suffering 16 puncture wounds from the lion’s fangs, broken bones in his arm and elbow, and deep scratches from its claws, but is now recovering from his wounds.

Meanwhile animal workers decided to put down the elderly lion, who had been kicked out of his pride by younger rivals and left to starve – prompting him to launch the attack on Neef in a desperate final bid for survival.

Recalling the terrifying five-minute attack, Dr Von Brandis, 46, said: ‘I guess I was not a pretty sight in just a T-shirt naked from the waist down and wearing a head torch screaming at this lion who was attacking my friend!’

The married father-of-two from Cape Town is the Research Director of the Wild Bird Trust was on an expedition with his pal Neef and six other researchers in the wilds of Botswana.

He said: ‘I heard Gotz screaming there was something big outside his tent and I ran out in the pitch black with my head torch on and saw this big male lion had collapsed his tent.

‘It had one paw on Gotz and fortunately was chewing on the tent poles rather than him and I just saw some big piles of dried elephant dung and pelted the lion with it really hard.

‘That didn’t work so I threw thorn branches at it but that didn’t work either and by now the lion had Gotz by the elbow and was seriously chewing him and my friend was screaming.

‘I was nearly naked and was screaming as well and ran up to the lion and beat it with a big piece of a tree but it did nothing and then our head ranger Tomalets Setlabosha came out.

‘I was smashing the lion with the branch but it would not stop chewing on Gotz and hardly even blinked when Tomalets threw a thunder flash banger used to scare hippos close to it.

‘The lion jumped a bit but was it was so hungry and so desperate and this was its last chance at a kill to feed or it would die so it restarted its attack and began trying to eat Gotz again.

‘Then Tomalets jumped into the Land Cruiser and ran the lion over but it would not leave Gotz alone and he had to run it over three times before it let go and ran off into the bush.

‘The lion was euthanised which was the kindest thing to do for it as it was skin and bone and would have died an agonising death at the jaws of other lions or starving to death if left alone.

By Jamie Pyatt – MailOnline

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