Welsh rugby star Scott Baldwin will likely think twice before petting another lion. The Ospreys and Wales hooker nearly lost his left hand after a lion bit him late last month.
“The bite went straight through the other side of the hand, but I was really lucky it didn’t hit any tendons or ligaments,” the 28-year-old told Radio 5 live’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast on Monday (via the BBC).
Baldwin encountered the lion at a wildlife reserve in South Africa, where he was on tour with the Ospreys. Someone on the scene caught the incident on video, which shows Baldwin and others petting the lions through the bars of their cage.
Those at the scene remained remarkably calm after the incident, with one person who appeared to be an employee of the Weltevrede Game Lodge in Bloemfontein, South Africa, noting, “Let’s just take him quickly to first aid. You’re all right.”
As it turned out, the puncture wound wasn’t the biggest concern, however.
“The infection was the major issue,” Baldwin said. “The next day it started tracking up my arm. The surgeon said there was a chance I could lose my hand.”
The infection spread quickly, and by the end of the week, he was on the operating table.
“I had my first operation on the Thursday, second operation on the Friday, and then I was allowed to fly home Saturday on the understanding I had an IV drip and went straight to hospital when I got back,” Baldwin said. “I was transferred to Morrison hospital in Swansea to see a plastic surgeon, and he cleaned it out once more. . . . Because they had packed it with all stuff to stop the infection, my skin was so loose he didn’t have to take a skin graft, so I was really fortunate there.”
It remains unclear when Baldwin will be cleared to return to play, although, according to the Telegraph he hopes to return to training next week.
Meanwhile, Ospreys Coach Steve Tandy has not made a timeline public, although he has publicly scolded Baldwin over his actions, which he called “pretty stupid.”
“There was an incident with a lion, but in fairness it was nothing to do with the lion. He did bite Scott but when you put your hand in a fence where there is a lion, then you will get bitten,” Tandy said (via the Guardian) shortly after the incident late last month. “It was pretty stupid on Scott’s behalf and he is pretty lucky … I don’t know what sort of wildlife show Scott has been watching where you can pat a lion on the head as if it’s a kitten.”