21 September 2018
Breaking News

Sacrificing life for wildlife: Wrestled Lion, Survived Crocodile and Poachers attacks

Written by  Kondwani Magombo
It's not a wink, Wisiki's left eye does not close, nor blink since he was attacked by the lion - Pic by Kondwani Magombo It's not a wink, Wisiki's left eye does not close, nor blink since he was attacked by the lion - Pic by Kondwani Magombo

MANGOCHI, March 04, 2018: He has fought nerve – chilling battles, faced and escaped death more than once. This is the untold story of one game ranger named Kondwani Humphreys Wisiki.

His passion for natural conservation has brought him close to his coffin at least three times.

“At Liwonde National Park, I survived a three-to-one battle against poachers who were armed with spears,” explains Wisiki who now works as Assistant Parks and Wildlife Officer at Michiru Nature Sanctuary in Blantyre.

The 40-year-old Wisiki was also once saved by a fellow ranger from a crocodile attack after he pursued a poacher into the Shire River and apprehended him.

The two incidences at Liwonde National Park left psychological and physical dents on Wisiki. But, perhaps it is his first battle on October 20, 2002 at Nkhota-kota Game Reserve that left him more bruised than ever.

On this day, Wisiki was attacked from behind, and his rival was the member of the big five family; the legendary king of the jungle himself: the lion.

Sixteen years have passed and Wisiki still recalls the episode with emotions that arrest his listener and keep them at the edge of their seats to the end.

He was 24 then, a fresh graduate from training at Liwonde National Park and was deployed to Nkhotakota Game Reserve with other scouts in June 2002.

By then, the Kasungu – Nkhotakota Road was under construction and Wisiki, together with a fellow graduate, Paulosi Mwase, were tasked to provide security to the construction company’s staff and their equipment.

Wisiki - If only I could have a surgery to have my muoth in place Id appreciate - Pic by Kondwani magombo

One day, the two got a request to guard some women whose vehicle had broken down on the road somewhere in the reserve.

It was on their way back to their camp that Wisiki met his fate.

He heard a loud wheezing sound behind him and before he could turn, he was hit hard on the back with unimaginable force and fell to the ground with a heavy thud.

“My body was trapped underneath whatever had hit me and I instinctively hunched my shoulders and dropped my head onto the ground,” explains Wisiki.

“Then I gripped with all my might what felt like legs of an animal on my both shoulders and the wrestling began.”

At this stage of the story, it is Wisiki’s fellow ranger, Mwase, who explains vividly what he saw and how he handled the situation.

“I heard the sound of his fall and it all happened within seconds,” says Mwase whom this reporter traced to Lake Malawi National Park where he is currently working.

“I turned and I saw a lion on top and Wisiki trapped underneath, his rifle clutched under his belly. I quickly reached for my rifle and tried to shoot but it jammed after a bullet got stuck in the chamber.”

Common sense quickly commanded Mwase to use the butt of his gun and hit the lion hard on the head repeatedly.

Wisiki at his office desk takes the reporter through his story - Pic by Kondwani Magombo

He recalls the lion and Wisiki rolling more than once but at every full roll, the two ended up in the same position as before: the beast on top and Wisiki underneath.

“I hit the animal again and it sprung free and dashed into a cliff nearby,” continues Mwase, adding: “I took Wisiki’s rifle and fired towards the direction the lion had gone.”

Turning to Wisiki, Mwase realized his colleague had sustained a long slit in the face, which ran from one cheek crossing the top of the head to the other cheek, leaving the skin and the scalp spreading loose.

“His clothes were torn and soaked in blood. I tried to provide first aid treatment by attempting to patch back the loose fresh on his head. I tore my uniform and used it as a bandage before I called for help,” explains Mwase with a heavy heart.

Wisiki was rushed to Ntchisi District Hospital where he spent about two weeks on treatment. He was then referred to Kamuzu Central hospital where he stayed for some months before his discharged, according to Mwase.

When he felt better, Wisiki was recommended for office duties but he insisted on field work.

“I couldn’t accept any job short of field work. I am a splinter and I have competed in various races during my secondary and college days, that’s why I chose this job to put my athletic skills into use and outwit poachers,” he boasts.

His work has taken him to Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary, Lake Malawi, Liwonde and Lengwe National Parks before moving to Michiru Nature Sanctuary where much of his work now is on Environmental Education.

Wisiki is a respected ranger among colleagues he has worked with.

“He is very brave, always ready to take risks where wildlife is threatened,” says Twambilire Chimimba, who once worked with Wisiki at Liwonde National Park.

Chimimba is the one who shot the crocodile that almost devoured him when he pursued a poacher from land straight into the Shire River.

As an Environment Educationist Wisiki duties include interacting with schools around Blantyre advocating for environmental conservation - Pic by Kondwani Magombo

“It was a very huge crocodile, I shot at it when its yawning jaws were just less than an inch away from Wisiki as he dragged the poacher to the shore,” adds Chimimba, who now works for Mwabvu Wildlife Reserve in Nsanje.

Aaron Kisindile and Martin Awazi are game rangers working at Vwaza Wildlife Reserve in Rumphi and Majete Game Reserve in Chikwawa respectively.

The two were also part of the patrol team when Wisiki was nearly killed by poachers at Liwonde National Park.

“We went after poachers who had killed warthogs and with his athleticism, Wisiki ran faster than the rest of us until he managed to catch one of the poachers,” Awazi says.

“Three other poachers turned against Wisiki and when he tried to shoot to scare them, his rifle jammed,” continues Awazi. “Armed with spears, the poachers seized the opportunity and descended on him.”

Wisiki was left for dead. His colleagues, including Kisindile and Awazi himself, found him unconscious and in a pool of blood.

The Michiru Nature Sanctuary game ranger has often been at the centre of deadly situations in the line of his duty.

In June 2005, he was also part of the team of game rangers and police that hunted and killed the most infamous Dedza Beast, a wild animal that had killed nine people and injured 13 people at Kanjerwa Village in Traditional Authority Chilikumwendo in the district.

DEDICATED: Wisiki with club members for Baboons Club his own brainchild at Michiru Nature Sanctuary  - Pic by Kondwani magombo

Wisiki’s commitment and dedication to his work does not go unnoticed by his employer and superiors.

“I have known Wisiki for a long time and we recognize his services and dedication to work,” says Bright Kumchedwa, Director of Parks and Wildlife in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining.

“As government we have been motivating him through promotions to senior positions and we also sent him to South Africa Wild Life College for further studies.

“He is hard working and he doesn’t relent despite the lion’s and the poachers’ episodes which nearly cost his life,” Kumchedwa adds.But at 40, married and father to a six-year-old child, Wisiki is still battling with the physical and emotional pain from the deadly encounter with the lion more than 15 years ago.

His left ear completely died after the lion’s attack and his left eye neither blinks nor closes: it just remains open and exposed to any harm all time.

The encounter also left Wisiki’s mouth twisted towards the right cheek and it is, perhaps, this physical defect that disturbs him most.

“All I have longed for is a plastic surgery just to have my mouth in place and possibly get my left eye functioning normally,” says Wisiki with a tearful look in his eyes. “I notice how people always avoid looking at me in the face and I find this very disturbing.”

Another challenge is that the deep scars the lion left on his face periodically grow like wattles when they are exposed to sun heat for some time. He has had to get them surgically removed every now and then.

A Lion like this one attacked Wisiki - Kruger.co.za 

To avoid recurrence of this problem at short intervals, Wisiki was advised by doctors to always wear a wide brimmed hat all the time.

Wisiki, who hails from Malonje Village, TA Malemia in Zomba, says he has three worst enemies. But the lion and the crocodile are not among them.

He abhors poachers, game rangers who connive with poachers to kill animals, and everyone who threatens nature and the environment.

I’d shed more blood than I already have to protect nature from these sworn enemies,” swears Wisiki.