Travel expert issues wildlife warning

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Travel expert issues wildlife warning

18th August 2011

After a spate of recent press reports regarding animal attacks abroad, a holiday claims expert has issued a timely reminder to travellers of the dangers associated with wildlife.

Katherine Allen, head of the Travel and International Litigation department at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the high number of recent news stories covering incidents where tourists have lost their lives abroad through attacks involving wild animals was both alarming and tragic.

“In the last few weeks, there have been reports of fatal shark attacks, a man being gored to death by a bull and a group of tourists losing one of their members when they were attacked by a polar-bear,” said Katherine, a partner with the firm. “The loss of life is absolutely tragic, and unfortunately these are not isolated incidents.”

Katherine said that indigenous wildlife can be unpredictable. This is particularly relevant now as the African safari season gets into its swing.

“We are now mid-way through this year’s prime game-viewing season which runs from June to October,” said Katherine, “and while animal attacks on safari are thankfully quite rare, it’s vitally important that travellers take extra care around wild animals.

“As African tourism continues to grow, contact between holidaymakers and wild animals is increasing. Safari holidays are generally very safe, however it is absolutely crucial that travellers are aware of the dangers, take the necessary precautions and follow the instructions of their guides."

Katherine said a number of animals present a very real threat to holidaymakers in the African bush. “Hippos defending their young or their territory are responsible for more human fatalities then any other large animal,” she said. “Lion attacks are reported each year, involving tourists approaching seemingly lazy looking prides to take photographs of sleeping lions only to discover just how fast, deadly and awake the animals actually are. Elephants - especially older males - can be very aggressive even if unprovoked and will charge and trample their victims if approached or annoyed.”

Crocodiles are responsible for hundreds of deaths across Africa each year, as are buffalo which charge and gore their victims and can be extremely dangerous if injured. Snakes are a notorious hazard. The black mamba is the largest venomous snake on the continent. They can be very aggressive when cornered and will not hesitate to strike. Puff-adders are considered Africa’s most dangerous snake and can easily kill a grown man with a single bite. They are extremely well camouflaged and will lie still if approached, biting and killing anyone who inadvertently treads on them.

“Unless you are on a walking safari with an experienced guide in an area deemed safe enough, the number one rule when on safari is to stay within the confines of your vehicle,” said Katherine. “The majority of fatal safari accidents occur when tourists exit their vehicles and are then attacked.

”By following the advice of experienced guides and abiding by the rules enforced to protect you and your family, going on safari can be a magical and extremely rewarding experience,” added Katherine. “It is important however, that tourists research their chosen safari operator to ensure companies are reputable and hold a clear safety record.

“It is also important they research their destination before travelling so they are aware of any potential dangers they may encounter,” continued Katherine. “These warnings apply equally to any holidays that may involve exposure to wild animals as well as swimming in waters known to have a history of attacks by marine wildlife. I would always advise tourists to never travel without the appropriate travel insurance. This should include medical evacuation coverage as well as cover for any specific activities they plan to be doing on their trip. While there is a duty on such operators to take all reasonable steps to minimise risks, they can never be eliminated.”

How can Fentons help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims relating to holiday accidents and illness.

If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.