Tourists attacked by starving desert lions seen eating empty tent during drought

Tourists are being attacked by starving desert lions at campsites left so desperate they are eating tents.

Namibia's wildfire authorities have warned of attacks as the rare big cats are driven mad with hunger during a devastating drought.

One famished lion left a 72-year-old man needing 20 stitches a day before charging at campers in their tent, the Times reports.

Helge Denker told how he and his wife Irene were settling down for the night at a camp in the northwest when they spotted what they thought was a hyena approaching.

They screamed in horror as it suddenly charged "with a chilling growl" but managed to scare it away by shouting at the top of their lungs.

But conservationist Denker was soon forced to grab his revolver as the starving predator returned.

He said of the April 23 attack: "Again it charges at the window with that same low growl… crashes hard against the tent, dislodging a tent pole and peg and tilting the tent inwards on to us."

Mr Denker fired his gun and fled with his wife in a car as the animal was startled by the sound at Brandberg, Namibia's highest mountain.

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They returned to their camp they found the "gaunt" lion on top of their tent "chewing and clawing at the canvas".

The same adult male is thought to have targeted David Ward, a tour guide, and his father, a few miles away just one day earlier.

Both men managed to fight the lion off but Mr Ward's 72-year-old father needed 20 stitches to his leg.

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Mr Ward said that they could see "the ribs and backbone of the lion … it's such a shame that they are going crazy with starvation".

Lion attacks on humans are rare but there is concern that an extreme lack of food and water in their desert habitat will lead to more incidents.

Romeo Muyunda, from the ministry of environment and tourism, said: "Such behaviour is driven by sheer desperation because the animals have nothing to eat. We don't want anything happening to our tourists."

He said the lion involved in the attacks in the arid Kunene region has been moved with three other malnourished cats to a private farm where there are plenty of antelopes and other prey to hunt.

Muyunda added: "They will stay there until their condition has improved."

But two starving desert lions had to be put down because they were too weak to be saved, he added.

Desert lions are the same species as African lions but have adapted to hunt in desert conditions and rely on their prey's blood for moisture.

They are the only lions known to target sea life such as seabirds and small seals on Namibia's Skeleton Coast and attract tourists from all over the world.

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