6:00pm Monday 11th July 2011
By Abigail Woodcock
A CHEETAH attacked two men at a wildlife park in Eynsford over the weekend.
Visitors at Eagle Heights animal centre were left shocked after two staff members were mauled by the cat and only escaped after it was sprayed in the face with a fire extinguisher.
Chartered surveyor Michael Cooper paid £24 to take his two young sons, six-year-old Jamie and six-month-old Harry, for a day out at the park on Sunday.
The 42-year-old said: “I was among around 50 people who witnessed this event with my children.
"The staff were jokingly describing that they were filming the cheetahs to prove to the local authority that they were friendly.
“The man sent in to film was looking rather uncomfortable, but we were assured the cheetahs would only go for the fluffy microphone and if it looked like he was going to get eaten, not to worry.
“The cheetahs were let loose and without hesitation one of them went for the cameraman.
“Not even interested in the fluffy microphone, one decided to bite into the man’s leg.”
Mr Cooper of Petts Wood added: “The cheetah had taken quite a few bites and scratches from both the cameraman and the trainer, ripping the shorts off one in one close swipe of the paw.
“The two men managed to sit on the cheetahs head while another member of staff ran for a fire extinguisher which took several more minutes to collect.
“He was very lucky to escape with his life.”
The park regularly puts on shows where staff give short talks about the cheetahs before playing games with them in an enclosed space.
Following the incident, both men were taken to hospital where they were given jabs and had their wounds dressed. Both are back at work this week.
Eagle Heights owner Alan Ames, 55, told News Shopper he was surprised by the attack but says it was “no big deal”.
The father-of-two, who visits around 100 schools each year lecturing on his work, said: “It’s an occupational hazard.
“It was only our youngest cheetah, Zena, who reacted in that way - she can be a bit feisty but usually she’s as good as gold.
“What happened is very unfortunate and we take it very seriously, but it’s not like someone getting their arm ripped off by a gorilla.
“You can take all the precautions in the world but these things happen.
“I don’t know what people expect - if they want to live in a perfect world, they are deluding themselves.”
Mr Ames says children’s behaviour at the park could have been a contributing factor to the incident.
He said: “Our biggest problem is kids running up and down in front of the cheetahs.
“We have signs up in the park asking them not to tease the cheetahs - but parents let them get on with it.
“It infuriates me.”
Mr Ames says he will re-evaluate the way future shows are run at the park, but insists the cheetahs are not a danger to visitors.
Opened in 1996, Eagle Heights houses 130 birds of prey, 26 rescued husky dogs, a camel, a caiman, two Meer cats, two pigs and some goats.
Its more recent additions include the three cheetahs, Savannah, Boumani and Zena.
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