Cheetahs attack Limpopo air force base officer

Cape Town - Two cheetahs attacked a warrant officer at the air force base in Makhado, Limpopo, after she apparently tried to take photos of them, the South African Air Force said on Thursday.

The predators were recently introduced at the base to control wildlife posing a hazard by remaining on the runway or other areas where aircraft manoeuvred, corporate staff services director brigadier general Marthie Visser said.

The cheetahs, named Wim and Tobie, were born in captivity and released at the base last month, according to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre website.

Visser said the cheetahs entered a hanger on Tuesday and staff members tried to chase them out.

"The cheetahs left the hanger and apparently one officer decided to take a few photos. Her mistake, I hear from hearsay, was she moved a little bit away from the bigger group of people and when she got closer, they started growling and showing aggression."

The officer apparently became scared and turned her back to them. The first cheetah pounced followed by the second.

Visser said the officer sustained injuries mainly to the back of the head, face and neck.

She was taken to the military hospital, where she was doing well. She had apparently not suffered any permanent injuries.

"Air Force Base Makhado has already convened an investigation into the circumstances that have given rise to this unprecedented incident."

She said the cheetahs were still on the premises, but she did not know whether they were in a cage.

The Air Force Base at Makhado and in Hoedspruit had been using male cheetah pairs with success since the 1990s, she said.

"There is a separate consultation going on with the sanctuary to see how we are going to handle this in future."

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