WARNING: ARTICLE CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES
A tourist who nearly had his arm ripped off after attempting to stroke a lion has shared pictures of his gruesome injuries.
As nasty as his wounds are, Pieter Nortje said it could have been worse had a mystery man not punched the lion in the face. Even then, Mr Nortje is lucky to be alive, as his wound turned septic and left him in a very serious condition.
The incident unfolded in Tikwe River Lodge, South Africa, where the 55-year-old was celebrating his 10th wedding anniversary with his wife, Ilze.
Mr Nortje reached his arm through a fence and stroked a first lion as his wife filmed with her mobile, but as a second lioness approached, she locked her teeth into his flesh and began tugging on his arm.
Mr Nortje now has his arm in a sling and is on the mend, but looking back on the attack, he feels lucky to still be alive.
He said: "We went on the game drive to see the big lions and the game ranger told us they were very tame and were brought up by hand and said it was safe to get out and scratch and stroke them.
"I was stroking a big male lion who was enjoying it and then a female came over and I think either she wanted to play or perhaps she smelt one of the cubs on me from earlier on and just bit into my arm.
The lion sank its teeth into Mr Nortje's arm and began to pull. Credit: Jamie Pyatt News Ltd
"She ripped into it as well with her claw and I screamed and I think she got afraid and so did I and then a guy on the game drive came to my rescue and punched her on the nose as I was being dragged in.
"That was the moment that I believe he saved my life as the lioness was so shocked she let my arm go and I was able to pull it back through the wire and stumble to safety holding it to my chest.
"What immediately struck me was the incredible power of the lioness when it had hold of me in its jaws. I realised instantly that for anyone being attacked by a lion there is just nothing you can do."
Mr Nortje said he could feel no pain in the immediate aftermath, even though he could see the bone in his arm. At the hospital, he received 60 stitches to seal up the wound, but in the middle of the night, Mr Nortje woke up in agony, unable to stand.
He said: "It turned out I had gone into septic shock and the stitched up wound had filled up inside with poison.
"An ambulance rushed me to a hospital in Bloemfontein where they cut out all the stitches and opened up the bite wound again and cleaned out all the poison and dosed me up with antibiotics."
Mr Nortje needed 60 stitches. Credit: Jamie Pyatt News Ltd
Mr Nortje is now waiting for a skin graft and will be unable to work for at least two months, but he holds no grudges.
He said: "I think the lioness was playing and bit me not realising her strength then instinct took over. I consider myself lucky as it could easily have had my arm off and I would have bled to death.
"I don't blame the lioness or the game warden or the game lodge, it was an accident.
"I will end up with a great big scar to my arm but there are not many people who when they get asked in a bar where they got such a nasty injury that they can reply it was fighting off a lion.
"For our 11th wedding anniversary we will be going somewhere quieter without wild animals."
Featured Image Credit: Jamie Pyatt News Ltd