British tourist survives attack by cheetahs


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The Independent Online

A British tourist has spoken of her "nightmare" attack by two cheetahs when she tried to protect a young girl from the large cats.

Violet D'Mello, from Aberdeen, said she survived by "playing dead" at the Kragga Kamma Game Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa last weekend.

Mrs D'Mello had entered the enclosure along with another family to pose for a photo beside the cats.

One of the cheetahs then grabbed a young girl from the family and Mrs D'Mello intervened to protect her.

She told the Port Elizabeth Herald: "It all happened in just a few minutes, but it was a nightmare.

"They weren't being vicious. You could tell they were just excited, but it became serious very quickly.

"It all happened so fast. After his sister was free, another boy tried to make a run for it.

"As I stopped him, something jumped me from behind."

A guide in the park managed to pull the cheetah off but another cat then attacked the 60-year-old.

People on the scene managed to get both cats off and they escaped the enclosure.

Mrs D'Mello added: "Something inside me just said, 'Don't move. Don't move at all. Don't react, just play dead'."

"This was meant to be a holiday, but it's really turned into a nightmare."

Mrs D'Mello suffered injuries to her head, stomach and legs during the incident, which happened during a holiday with her husband Archie.

Park manager Mike Cantor described the hand-reared cheetahs, brothers Mark and Monty, as "tame".

He said: "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.

"We've had these animals for four years, dozens of people have come through here and seen them and fallen in love with them, so it pains us to hear about something like this.

"From what we've been told, there was a lot of commotion at the scene, which, unfortunately, most likely aggravated them somewhat.

"We're also considering the possibility that a female in heat in one of the neighbouring enclosures might have played a role here, but we can't be sure at this stage."

The enclosure at the park has been closed while the incident is investigated.