British tourist mauled by captive cheetahs
Violet D’Mello petting a cheetah before the attack.
PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa — Two excited, supposedly tame cheetahs mauled a Scottish tourist in a petting area at a South Africa game park, forcing her to play dead and turning her holiday into a “nightmare.”
The Port Elizabeth Herald reported the incident at the Kragga Kamma Game Park began last Saturday when Violet D’Mello, who had just posed for a picture with the hand-reared cheetahs named Mark and Monty, tried to protect a seven-year-old boy.
According to D’Mello, who was with her husband, Archibald, one of the animals first grabbed the leg of a visiting eight-year-old girl, leaving her with cuts and abrasions.
When she was free, it appeared to run after her seven-year-old brother.
“They weren’t being vicious,” D’Mello, from Aberdeen, told the paper. “You could tell they [the cheetahs] were just excited, but it became serious very quickly.”
As she tried to protect the boy, “something jumped me from behind.”
The cheetah knocked her to the ground where it pawed at her head, the Herald said.
As their guide tried frantically to pull off the large cat, D’Mello said, “Something inside me just said, ‘Don’t move. Don’t move at all. Don’t react, just play dead’.”
As soon as the guide pulled the first cat off, the other one jumped in, biting D’Mello’s legs and holding her down.
Visitors struggled to get both cats off at once, and, after a few minutes, they all managed to make a run for the gate, the Herald said.
“This was meant to be a holiday, but it’s really turned into a nightmare,” said D’Mello, who reportedly received stitches for a head wound.
Park manager Mike Cantor said it was not clear what had triggered the attack by the cheetahs, who had been hand-reared since birth and were considered extremely tame.
“From what we’ve been told, there was a lot of commotion at the scene, which, unfortunately, most likely aggravated them somewhat,” Cantor told the Herald.
“We’re also considering the possibility that a female in heat in one of the neighboring enclosures might have played a role here, but we can’t be sure at this stage.”
Last Updated: 3:09 PM, May 4, 2012
Posted: 10:37 AM, May 4, 2012