(NEW YORK) — The trip of a lifetime to celebrate a Scottish woman’s 60th birthday turned brutal when two supposedly tame cheetahs attacked the woman at a game reserve in South Africa.
Violet D’Mello and her husband Archie were allowed to get up close and pet two brother cheetahs, Mark and Monty, at the Kragga Kamma Game Park in Port Elizabeth last weekend.
“They seemed to be pretty docile. They said they were hand reared from cubs and were extremely tame and one could stroke them and not only that, lay on them and they’ll do nothing to you,” Archie D’Mello said.
The couple had just taken photos with the animals and was still in the petting area when one of the cats grabbed an 8-year-old girl by the leg.
Violet D’Mello tried to stop the attack. After the girl ran for safety, D’Mello said both cheetahs turned on her in a savage attack that lasted for more than three minutes.
Incredibly, Archie D’Mello kept taking pictures, documenting the horrific scene as the animals bit and scratched his wife’s head, legs and stomach.
Violet D’Mello said her instinct took over while a guide tried to pull the cats off of her.
“Something inside me just said, ‘Don’t move. Don’t move at all. Don’t react, just play dead’,” she told the Port Elizabeth Herald.
Miraculously, Violet D’Mello walked away with no life-threatening wounds.
The 60-year-old lost a lot of blood during the attack and has a lot of stitches on both her thighs and her scalp, her husband said.
Park manager Mike Cantor told the newspaper the park had never had any problems with the previously beloved cheetahs.
“It’s not something we’ve ever really experienced. It’s obviously very unfortunate, and we’re looking into what may have startled or riled up the cheetahs,” Cantor said.
The petting facility is closed to the public while the park investigates the attack.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN