A FEMALE teacher at New England Primary School on the outskirts of Mvuma, Midlands, narrowly escaped death when she plucked herself from the jaws of a wild serval cat that mauled her back while coming from bathing.
The strange attack occurred on 16 March at around 7am. The victim, Ottilia Tendai Jaya (30, ABOVE), who is struggling to come to terms with the strange attack suffered deep lacerations on her back and several other cuts on her hands and legs.
Narrating her blood-chilling experience to B-Metro soon after being discharged from Mvuma District Hospital, Jaya (30) said she aggressively fought the marauding cat for more than 10 minutes.
She described her survival as a miracle. During the attack some teachers and pupils were wailing desperately as they watched her, struggling to free herself from the jaws of the wild cat.
But one of the teachers later gathered courage and came with a log which she used to repeatedly hit the cat’s head.
A serval is a medium-sized African wild cat native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is locally known as ihlosi/nzunza. Like most cats, the serval is a solitary and nocturnal hunter whose diet includes rodents, birds, hares, reptiles, insects, fish and frogs. They look similar to leopards and attacks on humans are rare.
“I met my fate at around 7am on my way from the toilet where I was bathing. I was with my colleague Mrs Mukozho who finished before me and was waiting for me a few metres away from the toilet while talking to pupils. After a few steps from the toilet, my colleague started screaming that a ‘leopard’ was charging behind my back.
“I tried to run away but it caught up with me before it tripped me to the ground where I fell headlong. While on the ground it ripped its teeth on my back and I started fighting it off while screaming for help.
“I wrestled with the animal for more than 10 minutes while tightly holding its mouth. Seeing that I was losing grip, Mrs Mukozho came and held my hand and started hitting the animal with a log.
“Another male teacher later joined the fight and managed to pull me from the animal’s grip. He repeatedly kicked the wild cat until it passed out. In the process pupils were wailing desperately as they were watching me struggling with the cat,” narrated Jaya who is now nursing deep lacerations on her back inflicted by the marauding cat.
During the attack, the victim said she was left naked after her dress was reduced to shreds by the vicious cat.
Ottilia said after being taken to the hospital it was discovered that the animal which had attacked her was not a leopard but a serval cat.
“After its death, the animal was taken by officials from the Veterinary Services Department who later told us that it was not a leopard but a serval cat. They screened it and discovered that it was infected with rabies. I caught the deadly virus and was referred to Mvuma Hospital where I was given four injections and some antibiotics as part of the treatment. I will go back for further treatment and observations.
“From that day I was attacked, I have known that my life will never be the same. I have pain on my back and I am very weak. I thank God for being alive and I also thank my colleagues who saved my life on that fateful day,” she said while writhing in agony.
Rabies is a viral disease which causes inflammation in the brain and is usually fatal. Rabies primarily infects mammals and is caused by the rabies virus.
Animals with rabies suffer deterioration of the brain and tend to behave bizarrely and often aggressively, increasing the chances that they will bite another animal or a person and transmit the disease.
A teacher who spoke to B-Metro on condition of anonymity said teachers, parents and pupils were now living in fear after Ottilia’s attack.
“As teachers we are now living in fear and some pupils are also now afraid to come to school alone. After the incident, some parents are now accompanying their children to school fearing that they might be attacked,” the teacher said.
Ottilia’s brother Erasmus Jaya said their family was struggling to come to terms with the incident.
“We are still in shock and from our inquiry from the elders we gathered that the animal is rarely seen and it does not attack its prey during the day. When sighted the animal normally runs away but in this particular incident instead of retreating it ran after my sister,” he said.