Leopard Hunting Accident Involving Craig Boddington's Daughter
Leopard Hunting Accident Involving Craig Boddington's Daughter Brittany Boddington
By Dave Fulson
As many of you know, I am one of Craig Boddington's partners in our two TV shows "Tracks Across Africa" and" Hornady's Africa With Craig Boddington and Ivan Carter". During a phone call with Craig this morning from Namibia, Craig asked me to post this on AR to answer any questions on what is sure to be a well traveled topic on the rumor mill. Craig's eldest daughter Brittany is an avid, and fairly experienced big game hunter with multiple safaris under her belt, several of which were targeting dangerous game. I have filmed several of her safaris for the show, and always found Brittany to be safety conscious where firearms were concerned ,a result of learning under a father who stresses the point of firearm safety at all times. Last week while filming a leopard with dogs hunt with our Tracks TV crew in Namibia , an incident happened that resulted in (1) a flat out charge from an UNWOUNDED ,but agitated male leopard (2 ) a dog handler being savaged by the cat (3) an attempt by Brittany to kill what was, by the time of her shot,a wounded leopard that accidentally hit and wounded the man being mauled.
At the time of the accident , Craig was filming in Zimbabwe, but flew to Namibia to assist as best he could, and as you can imagine comfort his daughter from the obvious anxiety of the situation she was dealing with. The attending PH was Nic Kruger, a first rate hunter and Co-owner of Omujeve safaris. Nic is an experienced leopard man, and we have enjoyed several wonderful safaris under his and his brother Corne's care. For those of you who have never experienced a close range charge from an infuriated leopard , trust me , it is scary as hell and it happens with shocking speed. It is easy to second guess these situations ,especially when the facts of the hunt are unknown or blurred second hand accounts. The following is the official police report as filed by both Nic and Brittany. Please read both accounts,and I believe you will reach the same conclusion as I have, that this was a very fast moving situation that both PH and client were trying their level best to control,to the best of their ability and skill. As I said, due to the last name involved, this is bound to get some attention in safari circles. Craig thought, and I agreed, that posting the police reports would be the best method to make sure the facts were accurately portrayed. I have seen some fairly experienced hunters loose their heads under far less stressful situations than the flat out charge of a leopard at point blank range. I think Brittany did her best to stand firm and shoot what she believed to be a wounded cat. The accident was just that, a terrible twist of luck that can happen to each and every one of us that hunt dangerous game.
I, Brittany Boddington, a 23 year old U.S. citizen herewith declare under oath as follows:
I was hunting leopard with Nic Kruger of Omujeve Hunting Safaris Namibia on the Fahlwater farm in the Karibib district. We found some fresh leopard tracks at about 5:15 in the morning and when it was daybreak we put down the dogs. We set out following the sound of the hounds through the brush but this was a very aggressive cat, it was not running from the dogs like most cats do. Zukile was one of the dog handlers, he was contacting us by radio telling us that the cat was fighting the dogs and had injured several of them. These dogs know what they are doing and almost never get close enough to get hurt. After a couple of hours we came up to a really thick area where the dogs were barking and the leopard would not tree. The leopard held its ground and the dogs were tired and bleeding so we sent Classen to get the car so that we could give the dogs some water. At this point we called the dogs away from the leopard and they laid down in the shade waiting for the car to bring water. After they had all had water and were looking rested the dog handlers started encouraging the dogs to go back into the brush and find the tracks of where the leopard had gone. The dog handlers were sure that the leopard had run away because none of the dogs were barking so we started walking slowly in the direction that the leopard had been. Nic showed me the flattened grass in an area surrounded by bushes where the leopard had been hiding when the dogs were last barking. The dogs were scattered all around us looking for tracks and as I was examining the flattened grass area I heard a dog begin to bark. Before the dog could even get the whole bark out I heard the growl of the leopard. When I heard Nic’s shot go off I stepped out from behind him and saw the leopard come out from behind a bush. The leopard paused for a moment and in the tall grass I could see only slightly more than the outline of the leopard’s back. I saw that the leopard had been hit and it stopped with its head down in the grass. I got my rifle up and took a shot at the part of the leopard that I could see. The leopard then jumped up and Nic hit it again with another shot as the leopard ran into the bush and Nic ran after it to make sure it would not come back to attack again. At this moment I heard Zukile yell, we realized that Punki had been shot and we called Nic back and he sent Classen to get the car. We held pressure on the wound and we kept Punki awake until the car could get through the thick brush to where we were. We loaded him into the back seat of the car and I jumped on the back of the cruiser. The entire way to the hospital I was trying to figure out what had happened. I could only imagine that I had shot over the leopard and hit Punki as he was running away. I didn’t know where they had been standing so I assumed that he had just run when the leopard charged. It was only after we had wheeled him into the emergency room that Simon told me “You should see what the leopard did to his ankle.” My response was a surprised “The leopard bit him? When did the leopard bite him?” Simon then told me that Punki had been attacked and mauled by the leopard and that he was in fact under the leopard when I shot. I screamed “WHAT?” and then it all started to make sense. Nic had seen the two men fall to the ground in the tall grass before I had stepped out from behind him. Both men were wearing full camouflage from head to toe and in the tall grass they were completely invisible to me. The leopard bit through Punki’s leather belt and had been thrashing him about in the grass when I shot. Apparently the leopard was pulling him up from the ground and as I fired my rifle the leopard pulled him up by the left side and the bullet must have missed the leopard and gone through his hip. I know better than to fire when a leopard is mauling someone, I would not have shot had I known that there was a person even close to the leopard. The whole attack from beginning to end took less than four seconds and there was just no time to sort out what was happening.
I, Joachim Nicolaas Kruger, I.D #82041910569, a 27 year old Namibian citizen here with declare under oath as follows:
I am a shareholder and Licensed Professional Hunter with Omujeve Hunting Safaris and a resident on the farm Ongombo West Section II # 56 Windhoek District. I was guiding a legal leopard hunt on the farm Fahlwater in the Karibib on the 24th of April 2009. We found a big leopard track at 05:15 in the morning and decided that it was a big leopard and that we could start the hunt as soon as it was light enough. At first light we released the hounds to start tracking the leopard. After some time Zukile called me on the radio and said he was hearing the leopard. We started to approach Zukile. The leopard was in thick brush and wasn’t afraid of the dogs. He was fighting with the dogs and injured a couple of them, which is very unusual with this experienced pack of hounds.
As time passed it was clear that the dogs were afraid of this leopard and the leopard wasn’t planning on getting in a tree soon. I decided that it was too dangerous to attempt to approach the leopard. We called the hounds back and I send Claasen to fetch the vehicle. We gave the hounds water hoping that the dogs would be fresh again and would have an advantage over the leopard, and that they would then push the leopard into a tree and give us a nice, safe clean shot. Zukile, Punki and myself thought the cat had moved off and we decided to move to the spot where the cat was laying down last and get the hounds back on the track. Zukile and Punki were walking a short distance in front of me with Brittany right behind me and Simon Elton a couple of steps back. Suddenly one of the hounds made a sound and I saw the leopard charging towards Zukile. Zukile fell to the ground and as the leopard approached Punki I saw a gap and shot the leopard but the shot was not fatal. The leopard jumped on Punki and Punki fell to the ground. Then the leopard moved towards Claasen but turned back toward Punki and started biting him. Then I heard a shot from Brittany’s rifle. Brittany didn’t know at the time that Punki was under the leopard because she was walking behind me when it happened and when she stepped out behind me, Punki was already down in the tall grass. That is why she couldn’t see him, and of course she is eleven inches shorter than I am, so she could see much less than I could in the long grass. She shot at the leopard because it stopped which, for her was the right thing to do at that stage. Any hunter in the same situation would have done the same. When she shot the leopard it was busy biting Punki and there was a lot of movement as the leopard was pulling Punki around. Because of her height Brittany was unable to see this. The whole thing happened very quickly, in less than three seconds, much too quickly for me to give any instructions or clarify the situation. I am certain her bullet hit Punki because the leopard pulled Punki up right into the line of her shot, suggested by deep bite marks on his belt. After Brittany’s shot the leopard dropped Punki and started to run away and then I shot the leopard again and ran past Punki. I knew that he was bitten by the leopard, but at this time I did not know he had been hit by a bullet. The leopard was still running away from us and I just wanted to make sure that the leopard was dead because I didn’t want to track a wounded leopard after what has already happened. The leopard was dead when I reached it, and Zukile called me and said that I must come quickly and that Punki was shot. Until that moment I had no idea that Punki was shot and I told my tracker Claasen to run and bring the truck. Meanwhile we took our shirts and held pressure on the wound. While we waited for the truck I called EMED rescue and Doctor Jordaan and made some arrangements as to what to do and where to meet the ambulance. The truck came about two minutes later and we loaded Punki in the truck and raced to the main road that was about 10km away. As we got on the main road the ambulance was on it way from Okahandja and we drove straight to Okahandja Hospital and they were quick to help and to get Punki stabilized. Then EMED rescue came and they then moved him to Windhoek where the doctors were waiting for him.
Joachim Nicolaas Kruger
I feel for Brittany Boddington
I just think that no one should judge anyone if they have not walked a mile in their shoes! Not many have been tested in such a situation and one only knows what they would do when the time actually arrives. My heart goes out to her as I am sure that she is living in a personal hell right now. I hope that everyone remembers she is a young woman who had the best of intentions and IMO did the right thing given the very challenging circumstances and it turned out badly. I have sympathy for her, there have been times when each and every one of us have done the right thing and it ended up badly or even hurting someone else, that's for sure. I just hope that everyone remembers that she is a real person, not just Craig Boddingtons' daughter.