Media reports from Indonesia and South Africa depict the realities of public interactions with big cats

A tiger cub used as a photo prop at Jatim Park zoo in the city of Batu, East Java attacked a 4-year-old kindergartner just before a photo session, severely injuring her.

The incident reportedly occurred last Tuesday afternoon. The victim, identified by her initials TAP, was on a school field trip at the popular East Java zoo when the 6-month-old tiger cub attacked her.

“At the time the area was crowded. There were many screaming kids around. The tiger cub got startled and suddenly lunged at the victim, hugging her. During that hug, the tiger cub also clawed at the kid,” an unnamed witness told the Tribun.

TAP was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Reports say that she suffered a deep wound on her chest, as well as injuries on her neck and back.

The zoo management confirmed that the attack happened but put it down as an accident. A zoo staff member brought the cub out of its enclosure to a public area for a photo session with visitors and believes that the cub was startled by the presence of noisy children before it attacked.

The Batu City Police said they are conducting an investigation into the incident.

Predatory animals being used as photo props are common in Indonesian zoos. Around this time last year, wildlife activists accused Bogor’s Taman Safari, one of Indonesia’s most popular zoos, of drugging a lion so that visitors can safely take photos with it.

Meanwhile a New Zealand teenager visiting Emdoneni Safari Park in Zululand South Africa was attacked by a cheetah.

A group of about 20 people were allowed to pet two cheetahs, supervised by tour guides.

As the group left the enclosure, Mandy Driver said one of the cheetahs – which seemed restless – walked through the group before pushing her son to the ground with “full force.”

“[It] pushed through a few different people, caught my daughter’s top, ripped all her top, and then landed on my son as he was facing it … and pushed him to the ground,” she said.

“[The cheetah] landed him on the ground as though it was eating him. It was horrible, it was really scary.”

“My husband just seemed to appear from nowhere. He just grabbed the cheetah, pulled it off him, and just held it to the ground.” Mrs Driver said her son was okay, although he had injuries to his back and shoulder.

The Emdoneni website promised all visitors could get close to the hand-reared cheetahs, but interaction depended on the cats’ moods. “Bear in mind these animals are still wild animals with a mind of [their] own,” it says.

In a tragic turn of events a 3 year-old boy was killed by a captive cheetah at Tiger Canyons, a tiger breeding farm near Philippolis in the Karoo region of South Africa.

Police spokesperson Motantsi Makhele said the boy was airlifted to a hospital in Bloemfontein after the attack, but succumbed to his injuries during the trip.

John Varty, owner of Tiger Canyons, confirmed the incident but said that it was not yet clear what happened.

Police have confirmed that an inquest docket had been opened and that no one had been arrested in connection with the boy’s death.

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