Outrage over attack by Bay cheetahs

Zandile Mbabela and Matthew Comley

THERE has been widespread outrage over the attack on a Scottish tourist by a “tame” cheetah at Nelson Mandela Bay’s Kragga Kamma Game Park last week – an incident which has attracted attention from around the world.

Newspapers in Australia, the US, the United Arab Emirates and UK, among others, picked up on the story after it was published in The Herald on Friday.

After the horrific attack on Violet D’Mello at the game park last weekend, an American woman has claimed the same thing happened to her while holidaying in the city three years ago.

Michelle Bodenheimer of Portland, Oregon, said she was attacked by cheetah cubs when she visited the 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, as they could have been prevented. They are wild animals, which we tend to forget.

“In hindsight, I wish I had pushed the matter further at the time as perhaps it would have prevented this other poor woman from her attack.”

Bodenheimer said she had e-mailed the game park last week expressing her disappointment that such an incident was 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.

People who took interest in the story after reading reports have criticised park authorities for being “irresponsible” by allowing small children into the cheetah enclosure.

Reader Diep Denker commented online that in most cases children were not allowed in wild cats’ enclosures – “especially running, small children”.

“Those cats’ eyes follow children’s movement with a keen predator/hunter’s instinct. Children’s small size and running activities trigger the deeply ingrained hunter’s instinct of these animals,” he wrote.

Kragga Kamma’s game park manager Mike Cantor said they had not figured out what had caused the cheetahs to react in the manner that they did.

“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 something like this had happened – said the park was also reviewing its child admission policy.

“We have had incidents before where the results were just minor scratches, but nothing this hectic,” he said.

“We have a height measure at the entrance and these kids may have been a bit tall for their ages, but that system is definitely something we are reviewing.”

Tourism Department spokesman, Mawethu Rune said he could not comment on the incident as the game park was privately owned.

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