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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Enter. Do not enter.

Only 2 times in my life have I freely let out blood-curdling screams representative of horrific fear for life and limb.  Screams that action and horror movies are made of, extreme scenes like Psycho and the opening of Spiderman II to engage the audience.  The first time I screamed like this was in middle school.  I was walking home from school, only 3 houses away from my own, when a big dog jumped the fence and lunged after me.  The dog did not attack me, by some wonder, but the barks and teeth exposure had me fooled.  I was sure he wanted to tear me into shreds, and my scream mimicked my fear of impending attack.  It was spontaneous, uncontrollable, and emphatic.  Shaking and scared, I ran home as soon as the dog retreated.  I was unscathed physically, but mentally quite shaken.  We had dogs at home, and I never translated this near attack to any other canine.

The second time I screamed this same blood-curdling scream and genuinely feared for my life occurred a few weeks ago.  For less than 10 seconds I was trapped in a cage with an adult male baboon, Piet ( pronounced “Pete”).  

I entered his cage under the auspices of scrubbing the water dam, but apparently he did his own housekeeping. 
His enclosure is part of 11 other enclosures housing the “UCT girls” under the direction that all of the UCT cages could be entered safely for cleaning.  UCT is the University of Cape Town; UCT released and surrendered these 11 wild-caught female baboons from biomedical research after over 13 years of torturous, solitary captivity.  Several days prior to entering Piet’s cage, I had entered 6 other female’s cages to scrub their water dams and remove tossed food particles.

On this inauspicious morning I drained 6 water dams, including Piet’s, from outside the enclosures.  Piet was the first cage I entered.  A fellow volunteer was in the adjacent cage removing food scraps, apparently absentminded and preoccupied.  Within milliseconds of closing the cage door behind me, I saw Piet’s lips pulled back to expose 2 inch long canines (smallish for a male), his forearms grabbing for me.  Unknowing what was waiting for me, my first reaction was to scream and GET OUT of his enclosure!  Unfortunately, that is a little tough to do when there are canines being sunk into your forearm, and your legs kicked, grabbed, and bitten.  I screamed as I’ve never screamed in my adult life.  I kicked viciously to back away, I tried to throw his chomping mouth far from my body…but I was trapped.

Stitched back together
It was all over in less than 15 seconds.  Piet momentarily retreated.  He did not intend to kill me; he had intentions of immense fear from a visitor entering his cage.  His brief withdrawal was my getaway.  I wedged the door open and darted out, hearing voices in the background running towards me.  “Are you ok?”  I was shaking, in shock, unable to steady my hands to latch his cage door.  I had a bloody wound in my right forearm.  My left knee was on fire, but no blood appeared through my pants.  Someone walked me down the hill to the veterinarian clinic; the Vet Tech on staff, thankfully, was not occupied with baboons, and immediately irrigated the wound.  I’m not sure when I comprehended what had just happened, the physical pain I was feeling, or the mental nightmare slowly becoming reality.  Tears had not yet infiltrated my eyes, only those long canines continued to fill my vision…

My rainbow-colored knee
Continuation of the story: Piet, but no Repeat


  1. Omg Ca .... That is horrible!!! I'm glad you r ok though!! I love and miss u......Dender

  2. GEEZE!!! Praise the Lord you weren't hurt even worse. Be praying for your quick recovery. Hang in there Jessie

  3. I havent kept up with this like I should TOTGA but I am amazed at you !! I am catching up on all the latest as we speak and got to this part OMG. Expect more commentary from me on other posts you have made