South Africa has been rocked by several incidences of cheetah attacks over the past week, leading to an outcry for an end to wild animal petting.
According to Algoa FM, a 3-year-old boy was attacked by a cheetah on a farm in the Free State on Sunday.
Sadly, the boy succumbed to his injuries en-route to a Bloemfontein hospital via helicopter.
The owner of the farm, wildlife filmmaker Joh Varty, says on Facebook that while he takes full responsibility for the child's death, the attack was the result of his workers' carelessness.
“On the Friday night a large amount of booze was smuggled into the compound," he says, seemingly shifting blame to his employees. "The gate that blocks the cheetah from entering the compound was carelessly left open."
UPDATE: Further information on cheetah attack on 3 year old, as provided by John Varty on his Facebook page: https://t.co/ok21md4yOf— Blood Lions Official (@Blood_Lions) March 20, 2017
According to Africa Geographic, Varty is a controversial figure with many detractors.
The incident has served as a reminder that cheetahs are wild animals that are capable of killing.
In another unrelated incident, 14-year-old New Zealander Isaac Driver was allegedly saved from a mauling by his father, Dave, at Emdoneni Safari Park in KwaZulu-Natal last week.
Radio New Zealand reports that the cheetah pushed the boy to the ground, leaving him injured on his back and shoulder.
Emdoneni, however, claims that “untasteful” reports have been exaggerated, and that the boy was neither attacked nor mauled.
“The guests were cautioned to keep a safe distance from the cats which they neglected and or failed to do and consequently one of the cats reacted,” it says in a statement. “This unfortunately resulted in minor lacerations to the boy’s arm.”
The park claims that it followed all protocols and reacted necessarily to the event, and adds that the 12-month-old cheetah will no longer be used “for interaction purposes”.
Quite worryingly, a tweet by Blood Lions reports another similar attack at Emdoneni just one day prior to Isaac Driver’s.
“I was attacked by a cheetah named Dew on the 14th of March,” claims Peggy Lio, as shared by Blood Lions. “Probably that was the same cheetah.”
Lio suggests that employees did not react to her experience, allowing another ‘attack’ to take place.
Detractors of petting argue that it leaves the door open for these kinds of incidents, with animals often taking the blame for natural behaviour.
Twitter users have reacted to the incidents, calling for an end to wild animal petting in South Africa.