ABC News’ Suzan Clarke and Alyssa Newcomb report:
The woman who was mauled by cheetahs at a South African game preserve said she was “quite traumatized” by the incident.
The woman tried to play dead as the two supposedly tame animals bit and clawed her head, stomach and legs.
“I just remember … something biting my head and dragging me down,” Violet D’Mello said in an interview with Caters News Agency.
The Scottish woman and her husband, Archibald, had gone to the Kragga Kamma Game Park, a private game reserve in Port Elizabeth, last weekend as part of her 60th birthday celebration.
The couple had the chance to pet two brother cheetahs, Mark and Monty. They took pictures with the cheetahs and were still in the petting area when one of the cats grabbed an 8-year-old girl by the leg.
Violet D’Mello tried to stop the attack, but when the girl ran to safety, both animals turned on her in a savage attack that lasted for more than three minutes before a guide pushed the animals back with a stick.
“We never for one moment thought they would attack,” she said, while her husband added, “They said they were extremely tame and one could stroke them.”
Archibald D’Mello kept taking pictures, documenting the horrific scene as the animals bit and scratched his wife’s head, legs and stomach. He kept taking pictures until he realized his wife was being bitten, according to a report in the Daily Mail.
One of the animals’ claws cut the woman’s face dangerously close to her right eye. If it had been any closer, she could have lost the eye, he said.
“We’re very angry about what happened because we were told the situation was safe and it obviously wasn’t,” he added. “The park said they didn’t know what had caused the cheetahs to attack but they shouldn’t let tourists in unless they’re sure it is safe.”
His wife took a less forceful position against the facility, saying of the animals, “It was, I think, a playful attack because though they are grown-ups, they think like children.”
“I was just sort of quite traumatized and I still am but you have to move on and think positive, you know, but I am on the mend,” Violet D’Mello said.
Park manager Mike Cantor told the Port Elizabeth Herald newspaper that the park had never had any problems with the previously beloved cheetahs.
The petting facility was closed to the public while the park investigates the attack.