WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES: Wildlife researcher Gotz Neef, 32, was working at Prince Harry’s favourite retreat when a lion leapt on his tent at the Okavango Delta in Botswana
A camper survived an incredible attack by a starving lion which leapt on his tent and tried to eat him alive as he fought for his life.
Outdoor expert Gotz Neef, 32, was asleep when he heard a noise outside his tent while working at Prince Harry’s favourite retreat of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Southern Africa.
The wildlife researcher revealed how he saw the outline of a nose pushing in through the tent and punched it as hard as he could, not realising he had just infuriated a very hungry lion outside.
What followed was five minutes of terror as Gotz fought the starving predator on its last legs.
He was only saved in the tug-of-war battle by the bravery of fellow researcher Dr Rainer Von Brandis who ran semi-naked from his tent to take on the lion armed only a branch.
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 and was on an expedition with his pal Gotz 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 group patched Gotz up and drove him to a hospital in Maun on a bumpy 50 mile trip which took three hours.
He was then airlifted back to Windhoek in Namibia where he lives and taken to the hospital there where he is recovering from multiple bite injuries.
Dr Von Brandis added: “I cannot even guess how many fang holes he has.
“It is important to say that there is nothing reckless in camping in tents out in the wild as that is the only way you can do your research in the wild as there is no other way of doing this.
“What happened was extremely rare where an old lion is driven out of its pride and was starving to death and to get a meal this was its last roll of the dice and he was so desperate.
“Gotz will heal in time and will be back on the team soon and the lion was put out of its misery.
“This was not normal lion behaviour but it had no other option to try and stay alive.”
The pair were part of an eight strong team from the Wild Bird Trust that works throughout Southern Africa and were on an expedition in Botswana funded by the USA’s National Geographic Society.
They are both Namibian born but have German ancestry and spend much of their time in the wilds of Africa.
Lucky-to-be-alive Gotz had 16 deep and extremely painful fang bites stitched up in his arms, shoulders and head which left him covered in blood and he was also clawed by the lion.
The research manager said: “I heard something moving around my tent and looked at the time and it 01.26am then saw a head pressed against my tent and a nose.
“I did not know what was outside my tent and started calling for help and hit the nose with my fist as hard as possible and then it attacked me and began trying to bite and maul me.
“I heard Rainer shouting ‘it’s a lion’ and I tried to back into a corner of my tent and tried to push the lion away with my sleeping bag but it was determined to attack me.
The lion started to bite me and got my head but I managed to pull it out and pushed my left elbow in his face and he started biting my arm and I screamed in pain.”
Gotz revealed that earlier in the evening while they were having dinner around a fire that a pride of 13 lions including two big males, a young male, eight females and two sub adults walk through their camp.
The researcher has slept out in the wilds of Africa in his two-man tent over 500 times and has been the subject to lion attention before.