You’re on a locally guided safari in Nambia, Africa, home to the largest cheetah population in the world. You’re thrilled as you spot one of these endangered beasts. But it doesn’t seem as thrilled to see you.
The hairs on the back of your neck rise as the big cat stares you down. This isn’t the encounter you were hoping for.
Cheetahs are the most timid big cat in the world. They are so apprehensive that there are no recorded attacks on humans in Africa. But you should never let your guard down around them.
Judy Berens was in the middle of giving an educational talk at a Florida conservation center when she was attacked by two cheetahs. What caused them to attack?
According to Judy, they were after a soccer ball that a kid kicked, and Judy happened to be right in the way. After being treated for the 40 puncture wounds the two cats inflicted on her, she was fine.
But let’s get back to you in the Nambia grasslands. What noises should you make? Can you defend yourself without killing this beautiful, endangered animal? And how does a cheetah kill its prey?
We’ve been moving into big cat’s territories. Cheetahs have already lost 90% of their original range.
And the more roads and settlements we build in this cat’s habitat, the more likely it is they will attack you. If you watched How To Survive a Wolf Attack, some of these steps will sound familiar. But pay attention, because there are some important differences.
Step 1: Play Recordings of a Hyena or Lion Call
Unfourtunately, 70% of Cheetah cubs are killed by predators like hyenas and lions, so they tend to stay away from these predators. This behavior is called predator avoidance, and it occurs in all cheetahs, regardless of their age or sex. Playing a recording of a hyena or lion call will scare them off.
Step 2: Don’t Run
Okay, I hope this is an obvious one. Cheetahs can run at speeds up to 112 km/h (70 mph), and they can accelerate from 0 to 72 km/h (45 mph) in 2.5 seconds. They’re also extremely agile, using their big tails foir balance as they quickly pivot. If you run, they will instinctively chase you.
Instead, back away slowly. And unlike other animals, you want to maintain eye contact with this big cat, as you slowly make it back to somewhere safe.
Step 3: Intimidate It
Now if there’s no safe place you can go to, you need to intimidate the cheetah. Make yourself seem large while yelling or clapping. You want to make the cheetah to think you’re a large, dangerous animal.
Step 4: Fight Back
If, after all that, the cheetah still attacks, fight back. If you can, avoid killing the animal. It’s an endangered species, and each individual animal is important to saving the species from extinction. Use non-lethal tactics such as pepper spray, kicking the animal in the chest, or punching it in the nose.
Step 5: Play Dead
If you can’t fight back, or find yourself on the ground, curl up and play dead. Don’t struggle or scream. The cheetah isn’t looking to eat you for dinner, so if it thinks it’s won, it might leave you alone.
Just make sure you protect your neck at all costs. Like lions and leopards, cheetahs kill their prey by standing on their neck and suffocating them. Cheetahs are beautiful and majestic animals. But like all wild beasts, they are best observed from afar. You’re much more likely to be attacked by a cougar or a tiger than a cheetah.
- “Cheetahs: The Fastest Land Animals | Live Science”. Alina, Bradford. 2021. livescience.com.
- “Cheetah mauling victim says she ‘assumed risk’’”. Mike, Celizic. 2008. today.com
- “How To Survive Attacks From The World’s Most Dangerous Animals”. Elliott, Annabel. 2016. Mail Online.
- “How To Survive A Cheetah Attack: 15 Steps (With Pictures)”. 2021. wikihow.com.
- “Facts About Cheetahs – Kruger Park Wildlife”. 2021. krugerpark.co.za.
- “Human Attacks by Large Felid Carnivores in Captivity and in the Wild”. 2021. wemjournal.org.
- “Do Cheetahs Pose A Risk To People? Let’s Be Fair In Our Fears…..(Photo: ‘Shadow’ Taken By David Swanepoel, Samara Private Game Reserve) – Rogge Cloof Private Sutherland Estate”. 2018. roggecloof.com.