Cheetah struck before

Pietermaritzburg - Another report of a horror attack at the KwaCheetah Project breeding facility has surfaced, this time involving an elderly woman who was attacked by the same cheetah that attacked a young boy there last week.

Just a day before the traumatic attack on young Aiden Fry, 10, a fourth grade pupil at Cowan House on Thursday, an elderly woman was attacked by the same cheetah while in the enclosure at the facility in the Nambiti Game Reserve near Ladysmith.

The woman, believed to be in her 70s, visited the facility with her grandson and her grandson’s girlfriend on Wednesday.

KwaCheetah’s Clarke Smith confirmed the incident and said an elderly lady was “knocked down by the same cheetah while inside the viewing enclosure”.

'Out of character'

Although the cheetah has now attacked two people that The Witness knows of, Smith said “this behaviour is totally out of character for the individual cheetah and might in fact have been play behaviour or the woman’s surgical procedure a few days before might have triggered the animal’s response”.

The centre offers an interaction tour where visitors are allowed into the cheetah camps under the supervision of guides.

According to a source, at the time the woman was in the enclosure there were “lots” of children standing outside the fenced area, “who seem to have irritated the cheetahs”.

According to the source, one cheetah became agitated and attacked the woman.

The source said the cheetah jumped onto the woman and “bit” her on the back of the head, knocking her to the ground in the process.

The woman’s grandson then reportedly reacted by putting his arm around her neck and used his other hand to try and fight off the cheetah.

“Apparently everyone inside the enclosure, including the guides, ran out of the enclosure screaming,” the source said.

Smith slammed this allegation, saying it “is completely untrue”.

“The personnel are well trained and professional and would not respond in this way. The guides immediately ran to the assistance of the lady,” Smith said.

Badly mauled

The woman is believed to have suffered two puncture wounds in her skull, lacerations on her cheek, ear and shoulder and “it bit off much of the flesh and muscle of her left arm”.

It is believed that the woman also had to undergo a hip replacement operation after the cheetah knocked her to the ground. The woman was rushed to hospital and is now being cared for at the eThekwini Hospital and Heart Centre in Durban.

This information however, was not confirmed by the woman’s family. Another independent source, however, also confirmed that the elderly woman was badly mauled, and raised concern that this was not an isolated incident.

The Witness on Tuesday contacted a family member, who asked for the family members’ identities to be withheld.

The family member said he would not comment further on the incident until a meeting was held between himself and management of KwaCheetah on Thursday.

The family member did, however, say that the woman was in a stable condition and her grandson had not been hurt during the attack.

Cheetah isolated

Smith said the animal has been isolated for observation.

When asked if there have been any other incidents at the facility in the past, Smith said Desmond Gouws, who has been involved with the project from inception, has confirmed that there have been no similar incidents such as this, “just slight scratches at times”.

The Witness reported on Tuesday that Fry was attacked at the facility last Thursday during a school excursion and was recovering from his multiple wounds at his Pietermaritzburg home.

In this incident, Aiden and his classmates were outside the fence when the cheetah attacked, lunging onto the fence and managing to stick its head and front paws through the mesh to grab Aiden, biting him on the shoulder.

No comment was received from Cowan House School.

• Michelle Hipner, the group marketing manager for La Verna Private Hospital in Ladysmith, in an e-mailed statement, said Aiden Fry had only been treated at doctor’s rooms and not at a hospital.