Mauled man lied about identity
Mon, 01 Oct 2012 6:10p.m.
By Amanda Gillies
A big cat handler has given a harrowing account of how he tried to save the life of a co-worker who was mauled to death by a tiger.
Clifford Dalu Mncube died more than three years ago, just moments after he patted the tiger and asked how it was. His death revealed a few more secrets.
Martin Ferreira recalled the moment he desperately tried to stop the tiger mauling his mate. On May 27, 2009 he repeatedly punched the 260kg tiger and hit it with a piece of wood.
“Clifford said to me ‘mate, help me’,” says Mr Ferreira. “I hit it. I was screaming ‘let him go’. He was calm.”
The tiger, named Abu, then dragged a still coherent but terrified Mr Mncube away. Mr Ferreira could only watch helplessly as the tiger then put his mouth over Mr Mncube's head.
“While it covered his head I could hear him.”
Mr Mncube died at the scene. The blood-covered tiger was then shot at least six times, twice in the head, before it died.
Mr Ferreira told the inquest he had no real idea why the tiger attacked.
Mr Mncube had been working as a big cat handler at Zion Wildlife Park since November 2005. He said his name was Dalu Mncube. He was born in 1983 and was from South Africa. It turns out that was a lie.
“He was born in Zimbabwe in 1978,” says coroner Brandt Shortland.
The inquest heard the "Lion Man" Craig Busch knew Mr Mncube's real identity and would threaten to go to immigration.
“We tried to find out what was going on, but he was quite secretive about it.”
Mr Ferreira said staff were told not to go into the enclosures when inspectors visited, and to say scratches and bites from the tigers were from dogs.
The inquest is set down for five days.
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