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Stunning Photos: British Woman Mauled by 'Tame' Cheetah in South Africa

Stunning Photos: British Woman Mauled by 'Tame' Cheetah in South Africa

"...had to play dead while it mauled my legs and stomach."

Just yesterday we showed you how instinctual zoo animals can get when a baby boy wearing a black and white striped hoodie sat near the glass enclosure to a lion's cage at a Portland, Ore., zoo. Lucky for the boy, Plexiglas protected him from the pawing animal. A British woman on vacation in South Africa was not so lucky.

The Daily Mail reports Violet D'Mello, 60, was visiting the game reserve Kragga Kamma -- more specifically an area where visitors were welcomed into an enclosure to pet tamed cheetahs named Mark and Monte. One moment a cheetah was quietly letting her pet it and in the next it was attacking her. Here's more on what she experienced:

Mrs D'Mello, who was rushed to hospital after the incident, said: "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.

"I was thrown to the ground and had to play dead while it mauled my legs and stomach."

A guide at the game park in the Indian Ocean town of Port Elizabeth managed to pulled the second cat off Mrs D'Mello, but even as he did so, the first cheetah rejoined the fray, pining the Scot to the ground and biting and gouging her legs.

The Daily Mail goes on to report that it took a group of tourists to free D'Mello from the wildcats. D'Mello's husband who was outside the enclosure took photos of the attack.

Park Manager Mike Cantor took D'Mello and other visitors needing medical attention to the hospital for stitches and antibiotics. Cantor is reported as saying he had raised the cheetahs as cubs and found their behavior surprising:

"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.

"The trouble is that cheetahs, like dogs, don't have retractable claws and so they would have injured as they did so. The other lady [Mrs D'Mello] went in to assist and the cheetahs probably thought it was a play time.

"It was a very busy at the park that day, which may have aggravated them somewhat."

The month-long tour for the couple was a birthday present from Mr. D'Mello to his wife that ended up becoming what she called a "nightmare." The Daily Mail reports that doctors treating D'Mello told her she could have lost her eye and was lucky to be alive.

The couple said they were angry over the incident because they "were told the situation was safe and it obviously wasn't."

The Times Live reports Centre for African Conservation Ecology director Graham Kerley as saying animals in captivity such as this should never be considered "tame pussycats:"

"They are wild, and should be considered dangerous."

Kerley said that it is commonly known that cheetah are more likely to respond aggressively to small-bodied animals (such as children) than they are to adults, and warned parents against having their children in close proximity to these cats.

"The bottom line is, cheetah are wild animals, and adult cheetah have the capacity to hurt very badly," he said.

For now, the couple is reported as continuing their vacation after the incident, which occurred Saturday, but at another game park.

The Daily Mail reports Kraggar Kamma considers the situation a "freak incident" and will evaluate letting people into the enclosure again with the cheetahs in time.

Read more details of D'Mello's thoughts on the attack and see more photos here.

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