hyena snarl
A nurse at the Crocodile Bridge Camp administered first aid to Rensberg before he was flown to Milpark Hospital in JohannesburgPhoto medic/Flickr

A fifteen-year-old camper had to be airlifted to hospital for facial reconstructive surgery after a hyena got into his tent at Kruger national park and attacked him. The animal closed its jaws around Erco "Boela" Janse van Rensburg's face.

The youth from Centurion, in Gauteng Province, was woken up at 4:30 am as the hyena snapped its jaws around his head before dragging him around and sitting on him.

The boy's grandfather told the South African news website, News 24, that the sound of the vicious mauling was like "chips breaking in a packet".

A nurse at the Crocodile Bridge Camp administered first aid to Rensberg before he was flown to Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg. While there, the teenager was given plastic and reconstructive surgery to his mouth and jaw.

How exactly the hyena was able to get into the camp and gain access to the tent remains unclear. SANParks, which operates the park's ranger service has said staff could not find the animal which was believed to have run off.

It may have crawled through a hole in a perimeter fence, described by in local media as a "ventilation gap". SANParks has apologised for the attack and said it "sincerely regrets the incident" .