Emdoneni Lodge halts cheetah interactions following attacks


Cape Town - Following two cheetah attacks on two visitors within two days at Emdoneni Lodge, the Zululand establishment has announced it will be halting cheetah interactions on the property. 

The announcements comes one week after a teenage traveller from New Zealand, Isaac Driver, was attacked by a cheetah named Dew. Shortly after, video footage of a prior incident involving an exchange student named Peggy Lio also emerged. 

The footage shows the same cheetah jumping on Lio while a guide tries to stop it from attacking her.  

WATCH: Another alarming cheetah attack in SA highlights urgency to stop wildlife petting

According to Emdoneni owner, Cecillie Nel, speaking to Zululand Observer, the tours on the property will still be going on as normal, but "no interaction with the cheetah will be allowed until further notice". 

"The decision is in line with the trend of moving away from petting of large predators," Nel says. 

The lodge has also taken the decision to allow only guests older than 16 inside the cheetah camps. Guests 16 and older, however, will still be able to view cheetah up close within the enclosures and have great photographic opportunities. 

"‘The rest of the tour with serval, caracal and African wild cats will be as normal," Nel says. 

Moving to stop wildlife interaction in SA

This 'trend' to move away from petting large predators, which Nel mentions, refers to various authorities within the tourism sector's who have taken a bold stance against wildlife interaction. 

SA Tourism's CEO Sisa Ntshona, who was appointed earlier this year, expressing his plans to 'eradicate' wildlife petting shortly after taking up office. 

"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. "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," he said.

READ: New SA Tourism CEO hopes to 'eradicate' cub petting and animal interaction

Despite the slow but steady movement to stop wildlife interactions, misguided volunteers, ill-informed tourists and cash-driven cons are still operating under the veil of conservation in many establishments in SA.  

READ: Con or conservation: 6 Critical questions to ask about wildlife sanctuaries

According to Nel, Emdoneni Lodge's "clients believe in what we stand for and understand that [the cheetah project] is based on education and releasing, hence the reason for the low number of animals in captivity at Emdoneni."

Their decision, therefore, to halt the interaction practices comes as a welcomed change in heart to other true conservation establishments in SA. 

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