Last week I opened the pages of my newspaper to find a shocking image of a British woman being tossed around by two cheetahs. The woman looked frightened and helpless as these powerful animals got the better of her. The lesson here? Wild animals are wild!
The location of the incident was Port Elizabeth, the nearest major town to Shamwari Game Reserve. Whilst I had not visited the particular game reserve in question (Kragga Kamma Game Reserve), I did visit some nearby reserves that allowed tourists to pose with adult cheetahs – at one such place I was even able to take one for a walk on a leash.
I didn’t mind so much the human interaction with the cubs being hand-raised at the breeding centres, nor helping to care for cubs that were rescued and/or abandoned, but I must admit I felt a little uneasy around the adult big cats.
Twice I visited centre where tourists can pet and be photographed with adult cheetahs, and both times there was an incident of sorts. The first, a cheetah took a tourist’s hat (a new, expensive one) and a keeper had to wrestle it away from the playful adult’s mouth. Fortunately, it was only the hat that got harmed – although I’m not sure the owner considered himself lucky.
The second incident was a little more worrying – one of the visitors was holding a cheetah’s lead and as we were walking it back to its enclosure, the animal bolted before the lady had time to slip her hand out from the leash. She was dragged along by it for a few metres. She suffered cuts and bruising and a few bad grazes.
Shamwari Game Reserve itself is a reserve that aims to keep as close to nature and ‘the wild’ as today’s world can allow, so there is no room for human interaction on the actual reserve (although orphaned animals at the breeding centre of course are excluded from this rule). When we see confronting reminders such as the above photograph published in newspapers, it is my belief that that is how it should be!