‘A crocodile ate my arm – days before my wedding’

crocodile ate my arm

by Christina Lamb |
Updated on

Five days before her Zimbabwean wedding, Zanele Ndlovu, 25, thought it would be fun to take a canoe trip with her fiancé

But the excursion went horrifically wrong when she was attacked by a crocodile.

Incredibly – despite losing her right arm – her wedding to husband Jamie Fox, 27, in May 2018 went ahead as planned .

Brave Zanele says it didn’t stop her enjoying her big day, and adds it’s helped her “see life from a different perspective”.

The couple met in April 2016 when Londoner Jamie volunteered at an AIDS clinic in Zimbabwe, where Zanele worked as an accountant.

After a two-year long-distance relationship, Jamie proposed, and they began planning their wedding in Zanele’s hometown.

As Jamie’s mum and sister were travelling to the wedding from the UK, they decided to have their honeymoon beforehand – a four-day break at Victoria Falls, which included a group canoeing trip on the Zambezi river.

“Jamie was at the front and I was at the back of the canoe,” says Zanele. “The guides mentioned there might be crocodiles, but it’s rare, so we didn’t think much of it.”


Six other couples and four guides accompanied them. They had been paddling along happily for 20 minutes when Zanele noticed something in the water.


She says, “A crocodile popped its head up right next to me, and it took a few seconds for me to realise it was real. Before I could react, it grabbed my arm and pulled me into the river.

“I felt it bite my right arm three times. As it flipped me backwards and forwards, I was convinced I was going to die. I don’t know how I got away, but eventually the guides managed to pull me into another canoe.”

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Zanele adds, “They tried to hide my arm from me but I could see it was only attached by a little piece of skin.”

A rescue helicopter took her to the nearest hospital but, tragically, her arm couldn’t be saved. “When the surgeon told us, everyone fell silent,” she recalls.

crocodile ate my arm
©The Times / News Licensing

Two days later, the doctors were so pleased with Zanele’s progress, they agreed that the wedding could go ahead on the Saturday, as long as it was held in the hospital chapel.

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Her sister and friends dressed her in her wedding gown, and around 60 guests attended the service. “It wasn’t how we expected, but it was still the best day of my life,” says Jamie.

crocodile ate my arm
©The Times / News Licensing

Zanele agrees, “The vow to love each other ‘in sickness and in health’ took on a new poignancy. I need help with things like getting dressed, so his husband duties are a lot more than he expected.”

A year later, Zanele is doing well and gradually recuperating. She says, “The biggest challenge is ‘phantom limb’, when you feel the arm is still there. But, really, I just feel lucky to be alive.” Proud Jamie adds, “She’s dealt with it amazingly."

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