Cape Town – A Scottish couple visiting South Africa saw their holiday turn into a nightmare after a visit to a cheetah enclosure went horribly wrong.
Violet Dâ€™Mello was attacked by tame, hand-reared cheetahs at the Kragga Kamma game reserve near Port Elizabeth, The Times reported on Friday.
The Dâ€™Mellos were in the enclosure with a family with children. One of the cheetahs grabbed a child, apparently playfully, but injuring the child.
Archibald Dâ€™Mello was taking pictures as his wife tried to stop the other children from running away when one of the cheetahs knocked her to the ground, grazing and gouging her head.
Violet later said she could tell they were just excited and not vicious, but added that â€œit became serious very quicklyâ€? as the cheetahâ€™s brother also joined the fray, biting her legs and pinning her down.
“Something inside me just said, ‘Don’t move. Don’t move at all – don’t react, just play dead’.”
The cats were eventually pulled off her and she ran for the gate.
“This was meant to be a holiday, but it’s really turned into a nightmare,” she said.
A spokesperson for the park said they would investigate the incident to see what had triggered the behaviour, saying nothing like this had ever happened before.
Centre for African Conservation Ecology director Graham Kerley told The Times that wild animals in captivity should still be considered dangerous, and it is commonly known that they do not respond well to children.