A Scottish tourist was mauled by two male cheetahs during a visit to a South African cheetah reserve in an attack that almost claimed her life- and her husband took pictures of the ordeal.
Violet and Archibald D'Mello were assured that the large cats at the Kragga Kamma game reserve, which is located in the Indian Ocean town of Port Elizabeth, were tame. While attempting to pose for photographs beside the cheetahs, Mrs. D'Mello was attacked, according to South Africa's Times newspaper.
"It was terrifying and happened so quickly. One minute I was in the enclosure with the cheetahs and the next it was biting at my head," Mrs D'Mello told the Times.
"They weren't vicious. You could tell they were just excited, but it became serious very quickly. I was thrown to the ground and had to play dead while it mauled my legs and stomach," she added.
One of the park attendants managed to force the first cheetah off of Mrs. D'Mello, which prompted its brother to pin her to the ground and bite at her stomach and legs.
The quick thinking 60-year-old tried her best not to panic and lay lifelessly on the ground as opposed to fighting back, in a bid to prevent further attack.
"You have to understand, these are big animals. Something inside me just said, 'Don't move. Don't move at all - don't react, just play dead,'" she said.
Mike Cantor, a manager at the reserve, rushed Mrs. D'Mello to hospital after the attack, where she was treated for serious injuries to her head and leg.
Camryn Malan,8, another tourist at the enclosure, was also attacked by the 4-year-old cheetahs and like Mrs. D'Mello, he required stitches, but Mr. Cantor insists that the animals did not mean any harm.
"I have grown up with these cheetahs and they are not aggressive animals. It is almost like they wanted to play with the woman. What happened was that a young girl got a bit uptight and then ran away and the cheetah grabbed her by the leg," Mr. Cantor explained.
"We got these guys when they were six months old and while they have on occasions been a bit over playful, we have never had any serious issues," he said, adding that "this was just a particular set of circumstances that triggered this incident. We're very upset about it and very sorry to those involved."