Amandine Lequime, from Belgium, was left traumatised and injured when a cheetah at a South African captive wildlife facility attacked her.
The incident was caught on camera during filming of a feeding session. It shows one of two cheetahs heading straight towards Lequime and jumping up to attack her.
The footage then goes blurry, but it’s believed that the big cat was aiming for her throat.
Speaking about the attack, Lequime, said: “I lost my balance and fell to the ground, where the cheetah continued to bite and claw my arms and legs until the facility manager succeeded in getting the cheetah away from me.
“I ended up in hospital for treatment of several deep bite marks and cuts that caused muscle damage and required stitches.”
Lequime, who was volunteering at the unnamed facility, has since found out that the same cheetah attacked the facility manager two years ago, causing serious neck and leg injuries.
“The manager told us volunteers to balance the meat tray on our heads while walking into the cheetah enclosures, so the cheetahs can’t knock the tray out of our hands,” Lequime said.
“Although the facility pleaded with me to keep the incident quiet, I don’t want other volunteers to go through similar frightening experiences. People need to understand that to be close to wild animals is appealing, but not safe.”
Commenting on the incident, Blood Lions said Lequime’s story was by no means unique, adding that many paying volunteers and tourists have been attacked by captive big cats in South Africa over the last decade.
“We can only hope that Amandine will be one of the last victims,” the organisation said in a statement.
“Most of the 60-odd facilities in SA that offer volunteering opportunities with large carnivores will use direct, hands-on interaction as their main draw card. However, this comes with a huge health and safety risk.
“We are aware of 50 plus incidents involving captive lions, tigers and cheetahs that have been reported in the media — knowing that many more go unreported.
“A third of the reported victims weren’t as lucky as Amandine and sadly lost their lives during the attacks or as a result of their injuries,” Blood Lions said.
The latest attack comes just weeks after Environment Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy announced that there should be “an immediate halt to tourist interactions with captive lions, including so-called volun-tourism, cub petting, etc”.