BBC presenter Simon King, best known for the Big Cat Diary programmes, was attacked by a rabid cheetah while filming in Kenya, it has emerged.
King was filming the story of orphaned cheetah cub Toki when a wild female ran at him, leaping up at his body.
Both he and assistant Stephen Nangunye were bitten and scratched during the attack but were not badly hurt.
The men were given rabies jabs after the incident last summer. The wild cheetah later died of the disease.
“The attack was unprecedented – cheetahs just don’t do this,” said King in the documentary, Toki’s Tale, which will be screened on BBC Two next month.
“Having spent 20 years watching cheetahs in the wild, I was utterly shocked by this female’s behaviour”.
Toki’s Tale tells the story of King’s attempts to return a hand-reared cub to the wild.
The animal was raised by humans after its twin brother, Sambu, was killed by lions – as seen in King’s previous film, Fast Track to Freedom.
The wild female cheetah was discovered near Toki’s enclosure a few days before his release.
Seeing that she appeared tame, King assumed the animal was also hand-reared and approached it cautiously before it attacked.
“I managed to plant a foot in her chest and push her back,” the photographer and film-maker wrote on his website.
But the animal attacked again, biting Nangunye and leaving King with cuts.
Tests were carried out and the animal was diagnosed with rabies.
“It was desperately sad that such a beautiful animal should succumb to such a deadly virus,” said King.
“I, meanwhile, am fine. Seven jabs later, I should be able to bathe in the rabies virus without being infected.”
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