Cape Town - The urgency to stop wildlife interactions in SA cannot be greater.
Last week, three cheetah attack incidents surfaced in SA - one including a 14-year-old boy, Isaac Driver that was attacked by a cheetah at Emdoneni Lodge in Zululand. The attack made international headlines, but it turns out, Driver's incident was not the first to happen at Emdoneni last week.
Exchange student Peggy Lio, originally from Macau in China, has contacted Traveller24 sharing footage of a similar incident that took place the day before the Driver incident, at the very same lodge.
Traveller24 attempted to contact Emdoneni Lodge regarding the incident, but they refused to comment.
This is Lio's account of the incident -
"I'm writing to inform you about a cheetah attack that occurred on 14 March at Emdoneni Safari Park, the very day before the 14-year-old boy's incident.
On Tuesday, I was attacked by a cheetah named Dew, probably the same cheetah that attacked the boy*.
Our group of about five people, along with another group of 10 people, went into the enclosure and was told that we were allowed to pet two cheetahs, as well as take pictures. We were all standing together as a group. Suddenly, one of the cheetah approached me, jumped on me and pulled me down on the ground, attempting to bite me.
After the attack, I had scratches all over my body - my back, shoulder and arm.
I asked a couple of the employees from Emdoneni Safari Park if I needed to go to see doctor and get injection, but they said I don't need to because the cheetah has had a rabies injection before.
Even although it was not a very serious injury, I'm very concerned about that would happen in future - after the 14-year-old boy and I was attacked."
*Traveller24 can confirm that the same cheetah, Dew, also attacked Isaac Driver on 15 March.
This is what Lio's attack looked like -
When and where will it end?
Within a 10-day period, four cheetah attacks within wildlife enclosure on visitors have been recorded. The writing is on the wall, and this most recent account shared by an international visitor to SA highlights once again the multi-faceted dangers that wildlife petting and interactions hold.
SEE: Cheetah attacks Kiwi boy in SA: When will we put a stop to wildlife petting?
The topic is not a new one in SA, with SA Tourism's new CEO Sisa Ntshona expressing clearly his plans to 'eradicate' wildlife petting.
"South African Tourism does not promote or endorse any interaction with wild animals such as the petting of wild cats, interacting with elephants and walking with lions, cheetahs and so on," Ntshona said shortly after his appointment. "Our marketing efforts promote an authentic and credible tourism experience to all our tourists, and this includes an authentic wildlife experience to keep it as “wild” and natural as possible," Ntshona said.
READ: New SA Tourism CEO hopes to 'eradicate' cub petting and animal interaction
Clearly, SA Tourism would not like to promote the interaction of humans with wildlife as an 'authentic' South African experience. But due to misguided volunteers, ill-informed tourists and cash-driven cons operating under the term 'sanctuary', the practice continues.
READ: Con or conservation: 6 Critical questions to ask about wildlife sanctuaries
In the meantime, however, SA's international image, our visitors and especially our wildlife are in jeopardy of losing its iconic status.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Cheetah attacks Kiwi boy in SA: When will we put a stop to wildlife petting?
- New SA Tourism CEO hopes to 'eradicate' cub petting and animal interaction
- Photos vs conservation? Tourists complain big cat collars are 'spoiling their pics'