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Swallowed By Hippo, Man Lives To Tell About It 17 Years Later

Thursday, 09 May 2013 11:42 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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A Michigan man who lost his arm after being swallowed by a hippo 17 years ago is speaking out about his near-death encounter in a first-person account in the U.K. newspaper The Guardian.

Paul Templer was a 27-year-old tour guide on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe in March 1996 when he was attacked by a two-ton rogue male hippo he says had tried before to assault him.

The hippo had capsized one of the tour's kayaks, sending a guide in training into the water. But when Templer paddled over to rescue him, he was suddenly "engulfed in darkness. There was no transition at all, no sense of approaching danger. It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf."

At first, he had no idea what had happened to him.

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"I was aware that my legs were surrounded by water, but my top half was almost dry. I seemed to be trapped in something slimy. There was a terrible, sulphurous smell, like rotten eggs, and a tremendous pressure against my chest" Templer wrote. "My arms were trapped but I managed to free one hand and felt around — my palm passed through the wiry bristles of the hippo’s snout. It was only then that I realized I was underwater, trapped up to my waist in his mouth."

The bull tossed Templer around like a "dog with a doll" and submerged him underwater for minutes at a time before finally spitting him out. Templer sustained almost 40 puncture wounds, some going so deep they revealed his lungs, and his left arm was crushed to the point of needing to be amputated. Yet, he says he felt a strange sense of calm.

"All the pain went away, and I knew that it was my moment of choice," he says in a 2010 YouTube video recounting the attack. "I could shut my eyes, I could drift off, I could call it a day, or I could fight my way through this and I could stick around. The pain was so intense I thought for sure I was going to die. And then when I didn't, there were moments that I wished that I would, just to escape that excruciating agony."

Templar made a full recovery after hours of surgery and even returned to his job as a tour guide briefly before becoming a motivational speaker.

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Hippos are aggressive by nature and involved in more human fatalities than any other species in Africa, according to Discovery.com. 

Related stories:

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Rabid Beaver Attacks NY Man Swimming in Pa. River

Komodo Dragon Attack: 83-Year-Old Woman Fights Off 6-Foot Lizard 

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