Newspapers in Australia, the US, the United Arab Emirates and Britain, among others, followed up on the story after it was published in The Times on Friday.
After hearing about the attack on Violet D’Mello at the Kragga Kamma game park, an American woman said the same thing had happened to her at the park three years ago.
Michelle Bodenheimer of Portland, Oregon, said she had been attacked by cheetah cubs when she had visited the game park with her husband in June 2009.
“I am heartbroken to see that Kragga Kamma did not learn from my unfortunate experience,” she said.
“The attacks are not the fault of the cats [because] they could have been prevented. They are wild animals, which we tend to forget . People simply should not be allowed in [the enclosure] with these beautiful, wild creatures,” said Bodenheimer.
“In hindsight, I wish I had pushed the matter further at the time as perhaps it would have prevented this other poor woman from [being attacked].”
Bodenheimer – whose husband underwent emergency heart surgery prior to the attack – said she had e-mailed the game park last week expressing her disappointment that such an incident had been allowed to happen again.
“They pointed out that when I was attacked the cheetahs were cubs [as if it didn’t count]. I pointed out that although the cheetahs were “cubs” at the time, they were 18 months old and it was explained to me that they are fully grown at that point but still have a kitten mentality,” she said.
Readers criticised park authorities for being “irresponsible” by allowing small children into the cheetah enclosure.
Reader Diep Denker commented on an online version of the D’Mello story by saying that in most cases children were not allowed in wild cats’ enclosures, “especially running small children”.
“Those cats’ eyes follow children’s movements with a keen predator’s instinct. Children’s small size and running activities trigger the deeply ingrained hunter’s instinct of these animals,” he wrote.
“The lady’s sudden movement in trying to stop the children from running away probably triggered the cat’s hunting reflexes, resulting in the attack. These are not domesticated animals,” Denker said.
Manager at Kragga Kamma Mike Cantor said the park had closed the cheetah’s petting facility temporarily while the attack was being investigated.
“We’re still looking into that and right now we are not letting people [into the petting area],” he said.
Cantor – who admitted that it was not the first time that a visitor had been pounced on – said the reserve was also reviewing its policy regarding the admission of children.
“We have had incidents before where the results were just minor scratches, but nothing this hectic,” he said.