Cheetah attacks Kiwi boy in SA: When will we put a stop to wildlife petting?

2017-03-18 07:49 - Anje Rautenbach
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Restless. Attack. Mauled. Ripped. Grabbed. Horrible. Scary.

All buzz words that described the recent incident at Emdoneni Lodge in Hluhluwe in KwaZulu-Natal when a cheetah jumped a 14-year-old from New Zealand, Isaac Driver. See News24's full report here

Isaac’s mother,  Mandy, told Radio New Zealand that her son sustained injuries on his back and shoulder and that her husband “just grabbed the cheetah, pull it off him, and just held it to the ground”.

Strong man that Driver Dad. How much does he bench?

But a story like this is not new to the ears of the world and the ears of South Africans; if it is not a cheetah, then it is a lion or a crocodile or something else with really a strong jawline.

And somewhere between the buzz words preceding the incidents there is always a small disclaimer, on an indemnity form, a notice board or a verbal warning, “Bear in mind these animals are still wild animals with a mind of [their] own”.


When we see a sign that says “There are wild piranhas in this water with a mind of their own”, will we risk it?

Will we take a chance when we know the consequence of throwing water in a pot of boiling oil?

Will we test fate and ignore all traffic lights?

Probably not.

But what is it about wild animals that make humans lose all inhibitions? What is it about the big cats with big teeth and even bigger claws that stir up that strange desire to touch it, to hug it, to take a photo and tell the rest of the world, “I touched it!”.

Is it a sort of power play?

'Here kitty-kitty'

Because when these creatures are observed in the wild, we all know that they are dangerous but as soon as there is an opportunity to touch them all of the sudden the status of danger is voided to a domesticated demeaning pet-like-symbol of ‘here kitty-kitty’.


The 14-year-old Kiwi told TVNZ, "I think it's quite cool I'm going to have a scar from a cheetah."


It’s not really that cool. To every incident like this where an animal “acts out” against humans there is always a consequence.

Eve, Isaac’s sister also told TVNZ that her parents were looking forward to getting back to “safe New Zealand”.

What was the magnitude of that earthquake again in 2016?

The Drivers were – just like many other tourists, guides, visitors, locals and humans - on the receiving end of an animal’s instinctive behaviour.

When we see a sign that says “Bear in mind these animals are still wild animals with a mind of [their] own”, why do we risk it?

SEE: New SA Tourism CEO hopes to 'eradicate' cub petting and animal interaction

The cheetah is the fastest land animal at a speed of more than 100km/h, it has a bite force of 215 kg and a bite force quotient of 119 (more or less).

The average bite force of a male human (who is not overly hangry) is 68 kg and Usain Bolt clocks in at 44.72km/h.

Why risk it?

While the Drivers are getting ready to return to the land down under soon there are a few fingers pointing towards the family’s decision for visiting the facility and touching a dangerous feline.

The fingers are pointing with words like “this should be a lesson”, “stupid people”, “stupid humans at it again”, “very stupid young man” and, amongst others, “as jy dom is moet jy…”.

One asked, “Don’t people read or Google these things before going”.

Probably not.

SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Spare a thought for the world’s fastest cats

If people Googled – or just paid a little bit more attention – then I’m 101% certain that elephant riding in Asia would be a thing of the past, that circuses would have zero attendees and that swimming with dolphin shows would be extinct because reading might as well be on the list of endangered behaviours.

Not everyone knows. Not yet.

And while the word 'stupid'*  is almost on the tip of my tongue to join the choir, I can’t help to wonder why we are always pointing our fingers in the opposite direction.

Should we not rather point a big fat finger in the direction of ALL the so-called sanctuaries offering these interactions, hands-on experiences, fake volunteering, feeding, riding and walking? True sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres do not allow animal interactions with the public.

SEE: Five lies you need to stop believing about the lion cub petting industry

Should our words not rather be aimed at the root of the problem? Should we not rather be more opinionated about the attendant than the attendee?

We fight a fight to fight but should we not rather fight a fight to stop?

*If someone knows about the dangers of wildlife interaction but still chooses to continue with it then, please, continue calling them stupid.

Anje Rautenbach is the writer behind the blog Going Somewhere Slowly, find her Facebook,Twitter  or on Instagram

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