Ofir Drori’s relaxing escape into the tribal woodlands of Ethiopia’s Omo River
banks quickly turned from dream vacation into a battleground, when a
cantankerous crocodile crossed his path.
“I believe that adventures build
you. I feel fortunate to have had this adventure, to have been attacked by a
crocodile and survived,” Drori told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday night, on
the phone from his bed in Haifa’s Rambam Hospital.
About to enter surgery
to have a gaping infection cleaned, Drori spoke about his Ethiopian adventure
nearly two weeks ago, when a large croc feasted on a chunk of his calf. After
spending a week healing in Ethiopian hospitals, he made a spontaneous decision
to fly back for treatment in his native home on Monday.
By no means
inexperienced with African wildlife, the 37-year-old Cameroon-based Israeli is
the founder and director of both The Last Great Ape Organization Cameroon (LAGA)
and the Central Africa Wildlife Law Enforcement Network – organizations that
have led to hundreds of arrests and prosecutions of wildlife criminals. In
October 2012, Drori received the World Wildlife Fund for Nature Duke Edinburgh
Conservation Medal, directly from the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, in
Buckingham Palace. The WWF describes Drori as a “tireless anti-corruption
whistleblower,” who has successfully shifted Cameroon’s judicial system by
curbing an escalating wildlife trafficking industry.
He also recently
co-authored a book called The Last Great Ape
, which details both his
conservation work and the many adventures he had throughout Africa following his
army service – many of which he described as just as dangerous as his crocodile
“My family is not shocked that this happened to me,” he told
Embarking on a vacation with the remote Omo River tribes, Drori
posted an optimistic Facebook status on December 21, informing his friends that
he was “heading to the Omo River to disconnect from Facebook and emails and
phones” for the next week and a half.
But by December 29, Drori was
posting much different statuses from a hospital in Arba Minch, describing his
harrowing encounter with an unrelenting crocodile. “I stuck with my theory, no
crocodile will try to swallow an entire canoe,” he wrote.
After admittedly disregarding warnings from friends, Drori said
he was busy enjoying the “pristine nature” of the river and watching baboons
when the 3-meter croc charged at his canoe and locked its jaw on his leg.
Realizing he was in shallow water, Drori said he dug one leg into the sand and
used the other to struggle against the croc. The animal, however, proceeded to
open its jaws and tighten its grasp on his body, dragging him into deeper
waters, he explained.
Although Drori managed to release his leg and leap
out of the water, he said he found that part of his calf was missing and blood
was gushing out of his leg at a potentially fatal rate. Jumping back into the
canoe briefly, he recalled grabbing his tourniquet and small personal items
before searching for nearby villagers.
“But there was no one for two
days,” he wrote on Facebook.
After some two days of unsuccessful searches
for humans by foraging through the forests, lighting fires and floating on
makeshift life rafts, Drori said he finally spotted tribesmen. Providing him
with food, the tribesmen directed him to a telephone some eight kilometers
Trudging to the phone with a walking stick, he said he called an
ambulance to bring him to the nearest health station.
transferred to the hospital in the southern Ethiopian city of Arba Minch, and
later, to what he described from a hospital bed on January 3 as “the best
hospital in Adis Ababa.”
By Monday night, however, Drori had become
“increasingly frustrated with the doctors” and after experiencing renewed
infections, he jumped on a plane to Israel.
“I thought it was under
control – I wanted to stay in Ethiopia. I was in the end at a good
hospital, the best hospital in Ethiopia,” Drori told the Post
it started getting infected again and I didn’t have confidence with the
explanations of the doctors.”
“I made a very quick decision, and four
hours later I was already on a plane,” he added.