A Scottish woman visiting a South African game reserve for her sixtieth birthday was given a nasty reception by supposedly tame cheetahs at the reserve. The cheetahs, in an attack that lasted about three minutes, almost mauled her to death.
Game reserve officials allowed Violet D'Mello and her husband Archie, to approach two cheetahs Mark and Monty, at the Kragga Kamma Game Park in the Indian Ocean town of Port Elizabeth last weekend.
Archie said: “They seemed to be pretty docile. They said they were hand reared from cubs and were extremely tame and one could, you know, stroke them and not only that lay on them and they’ll do nothing to you."
According to ABC News, the couple had taken photos with the animals and Violet was still petting them when one suddenly grabbed an eight year old girl, Camryn Malan, by the leg. Violet said she tried to stop the attack and the girl ran for safety, but then, unexpectedly, the cheetahs turned attention to her in an attack that lasted more than three minutes.
IB Times reports that Violet said: "It all happened so fast. After his sister was free, another boy tried to make a run for it. As I stopped him, something jumped me from behind."
Daily Mail reports she said: "I never imagined it would attack me because I was an adult. But the next thing I knew I was on the floor and the cheetah was right on top of me. It started scratching me really badly and then I could feel the other one come up too and one of them got my neck in its mouth. I was just screaming and trying to get my hands up around my neck to protect myself, but I was being bitten all over my legs and down my side near my kidneys. People all around were screaming, and I had no idea how I would escape. Something inside me just said, 'Don’t move. Don’t move at all. Don’t react, just play dead.' Eventually someone came and chased them off me and my husband picked me up off the floor."
Her husband Archie, continued taking pictures while the attack continued, and provided a documentation of the scene as the "tame" cheetahs bit and scratched at the woman in the head, legs and stomach.The Blaze reports while she played dead, a guide struggled to pull the cat off her, but as she did so, a second joined in the attack, pinning her down to the ground and biting and gouging her legs. It took the intervention of a group of other tourists to fight off the cheetahs.
Her husband Archie, said he kept taking the pictures because at first he did not realize that the animals were actually biting her. He added: "I couldn’t do anything and the guide didn’t even have a stick to defend herself. In the end a woman from reception came running over with a stick which the guide used to frighten away the cheetahs. The attack must have been going on for three minutes at least by then."
The Blaze reports that Violet was rushed to the hospital after the incident. She said: “It was terrifying and happened so quickly. One minute I was in the enclosure with the cheetahs and the next it was biting at my head. I was thrown to the ground and had to play dead while it mauled my legs and stomach.”
Although she escaped without any life-threatening wounds she lost a lot of blood and had a lot of stitches on her thighs and scalp.
The park officials were astonished at the behavior of the cats, saying they had never had any trouble with them. The Blaze reports Park Manager Mark Cantor, said: “I have grown up with these cheetahs and they are not aggressive animals. It is almost like they wanted to play with the woman. What happened was that a young girl got a bit uptight and then ran away and the cheetah grabbed her by the leg. The trouble is that cheetahs, like dogs, don’t have retractable claws and so they would have injured as they did so. The other lady [Mrs D'Mello] went in to assist and the cheetahs probably thought it was a play time. It was a very busy at the park that day, which may have aggravated them somewhat.”
Cantor added: “It’s not something we’ve ever really experienced. It’s obviously very unfortunate, and we’re looking into what may have startled or riled up the cheetahs."
Daily Mail reports that doctors treating D’Mello told her she could have lost her eye and was lucky to be alive. The couple said they were angry because they “were told the situation was safe and it obviously wasn’t.”
The Blaze reports that the Center for African Conservation Ecology director, Graham Kerley, said animals in captivity should never be considered “tame pussycats:” He said: “They are wild, and should be considered dangerous.” Kerley said that it is commonly known that cheetah are more likely to respond aggressively to small-bodied animals (such as children) than they are to adults, and warned parents against having their children in close proximity to these cats. He said: "The bottom line is, cheetah are wild animals, and adult cheetah have the capacity to hurt very badly."
Kraggar Kamma officials say the incident was “freak" and that they are investigating the circumstances that lead to the attack .
The petting facility is now closed to the public, while park officials investigate the incident.