A Scottish tourist suffered a torn scalp and cuts to her body after two captive cheetahs dragged her to the ground, held her down, bit and mauled her, in a terrifying attack last weekend.
Her husband, meanwhile, hadn’t noticed anything was amiss and snapped photos as the bloodshed unfolded.
It is not yet clear what caused the typically tame cats to attack, but a park staffer told reporters a female cheetah in heat nearby might have agitated the animals.
Aberdeen resident Violet D’Mello, 60, was on holiday with her husband, Archie, in South Africa, when they paid a visit to Kragga Kamma Game Park in Eastern Cape.
In an interview with the BBC, Ms. D’Mello said she and another family with young children went into the cheetah enclosure and posed for photos next to the cats.
After one of the felines attacked a little girl, Ms. D’Mello said she comforted her brother, who had been trying to run away.
But then, the cheetahs turned on her.
“It was, I think, a playful attack… I just remember something biting my head and dragging me down,” she told the BBC. “But even then I was just thinking of the children. We were told they would never attack adults, it was the children we were concerned about.”
Ms. D’Mello tried to protect her neck as she lay between the cheetahs, which bit and clawed her head, legs and stomach.
Then, she decided to play dead, lying still as the animals mauled her.
“There was no time for anything. My husband was just clicking away. I don’t think it even registered that the attack was actually happening when he was taking the pictures. It all happened within seconds,” she said.
The guide didn’t appear to be armed, Mr. D’Mello told the BBC, so someone outside the enclosure tossed her a stick, which she wielded against one cheetah’s head to get it to release his wife.
Once the cheetahs had been distracted, Ms. D’Mello and the others escaped the enclosure.
She was taken to hospital, where her wounds were closed with stitches. The worst injuries, her husband said, were her left eyelid, which had been clawed but not pierced and her scalp, where a cheetah tooth had pulled back part of the skin.
She remained in bed for 48 hours, recovering, he told the BBC.
Park officials told a local newspaper that the two cheetahs − “Mark” and “Monty” − were tame, having been hand-reared from birth.
Manager Mike Cantor said it was not clear why they attacked.
“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,” he told the Port Elizabeth Herald. “We’ve had these animals for four years.”
He suggested the pair may have been riled up by a female in heat in a nearby enclosure, and that the busy activity at the park that day might have aggravated them. The enclosure is shut down until the attack can be investigated.
As for the D’Mellos? They are reportedly continuing their holiday − with a visit to another game park.
Published on Saturday, May. 05, 2012 6:07PM EDT
Source ADRIAN MORROW
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