‘Cheetahs tame well, but remain wild at heart’

2015-08-11 10:29

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ALTHOUGH not considered endangered, cheetahs are protected by Cites (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Dawn Glover, an education officer for Cheetah Outreach in Somerset West, yesterday said she couldn’t comment on the Nambiti incident and was unaware of it.

However, in 18 years there has not been a single attack at the Cheetah Outreach awareness centre where cheetahs are “educational ambassadors”.

Cheetahs there regularly interact with children and school groups in particular, but strict protocols are applied. The animals are always accompanied by a handler and kept on a lead.

Currently there are seven adults and four cubs at the centre.

Glover estimates there are 7 000 cheetahs left in the world.

South Africa has a stable population of about 600 in captivity and 500 “free roaming” wild cheetahs, excluding cheetahs in game reserves.

Cheetahs’ biggest survival threats are loss of habitat, decline in prey, poaching, persecution by livestock farmers and competition with other predators.

The Cheetah Outreach website says they are the fastest mammals on earth, covering up to nine metres per stride, and can reach a top speed of 100 km/h.

A wildlife expert, who asked that his name not be published, said it was impossible to guess what caused the cheetah to attack the pupil. “Cheetahs tame well, but they remain wild at heart and we should always be cautious of any wild animal,” he added.

Incidents of cheetahs attacking humans appear to be rare.

In April News24 reported that a cheetah chased and bit a 13-year-old boy who illegally took a short cut through Johannesburg’s Lion Park on his bicycle.

In 2012 a Scottish woman, Violet Di Mello (60) was attacked by a pair of cheetahs at Kragga Kamma wildlife reserve in Port Elizabeth.

Subsequently an American tourist, Michelle Bodenheimer, told the Times newspaper she was also attacked at the reserve three years earlier and believed visitors should not be allowed into the enclosure with the cheetahs.

A cheetah also jumped on the back of American actor Adam Sandler in a private reserve when he visited Africa in July 2013, the Daily Mail reported. He said he was told he could feed the cheetah but “something went wrong”. — WR

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