‘WHAT has four legs and one arm?’

That was the beginning of a surprising satirical text message sent by Australian Barrie Slater to his workmates at home after he almost lost an arm during a savage attack by a hyena in Botswana, Africa, last month.

Hyena Attack Victom Australian Barry Slater

Text recipient and work colleague John Cavanagh said everyone was shocked with the news. “There are lots of things we heard from the doctor and he still needs skin grafts done,” he said. “Barrie is improving steadily, but still has about six to eight weeks before he can come home.  At one point I talked to a relative of his who said he was in and out of consciousness for a while, but he seems to be getting better.

“We got a text message from him the other day and he seems to have his sense of humour back.” The text message from Mr Slater said the hyena spat him out, causing the ‘ultimate rejection’.  The satirical text caused many friends to think the attack was just a light-hearted joke by Mr Slater about his safari holiday.

Mr Slater might have his humour back now, but the pain caused by the hyena attack is no laughing matter.  The 50-year-old was on a five-week holiday in Botswana to celebrate his birthday and was staying at the Savuti Camp in Chobe National Park.  Mr Slater crept out of the safety of his tent to stoke a nearby fire when he was mauled by the native African animal on April 18.

“Our Land Rover is equipped with a tent that sets up on the roof, ironically to keep us safe from wild animals,” he told South African media. “I was sitting up in my camp chair when I heard a noise next to me. I looked to my side and stared straight into the eyes of a monster.”

After being dragged to the ground by the attacking hyena, Mr Slater said he somehow managed to grab his camp chair and fight back. “I started hitting him with the chair and gradually he let go, I looked at my arm and knew I was in trouble. But he was not finished with me yet.  He lunged at me again and took hold of my thumb, almost ripping it off, but I hit him with the chair again and he finally let go.”

Throughout the scuffle, Mr Slater’s wife Jenny and brother David watched helplessly while trying to distract the animal by yelling and banging on the side of the 4WD.  After the hyena backed away, they were able to pick up Mr Slater and drive him to the nearest medical facility. But realising the extent of his injuries they caught a flight to South Africa to seek proper medical attention.

Mr. Cavanagh is still in Netcare Union Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, receiving ongoing treatment. He has already received three operations to his left arm and thumb, had a rabies injection and endured several days in an induced coma. Mr Cavanagh said everyone hoped to have the ‘lovely-natured, personable bloke who really enjoys life’ back home soon.


Rabies is a viral disease usually passed on through animal bites.

Rabies can lead to mania, hallucinations, depression, delirium and brain damage.

Rabies in humans can be prevented by getting rabies shots pre- or post-exposure.

Rabies kills 55,000 humans annually.

Species specifics

There are four species of hyena, three of which are restricted to sub-Saharan Africa.

Hyenas devour all parts of their prey, including the bones.

Hyenas tend to travel in clans of 80.

A pair of man-eating hyenas responsible for killing 27 people, and weighing 77 and 72kgs, was killed in Malawi in 1962.