Aftermath of Cheetah Attack: Struggle to Obtain Justice and Compensation

You may remember the worldwide reporting of a cheetah attack on a ten-year-old boy at a captive cheetah breeding centre in Ladysmith, South Africa. Schoolchildren were on an educational outing organised by their school to the Kwa Cheetah breeding centre. One of those children was 10-year-old Aiden Davis.

Cheetah attack on boy

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While there, a cheetah charged at the enclosure fence at high speed forcing the fence to bend and allowing the cheetah to bite Aiden through it ripping chunks of flesh from his shoulder and side. Aiden suffered serious injuries. It is notable that the school which organised the outing has decided to deny liability and are being extremely unhelpful. They downplayed the severity of the injuries by saying that Aiden had suffered some scratches.

The fact that they downplayed the injuries (a form of defence) is, as far as I’m concerned, an implied admission of culpability. For what other reason would they downplay the injuries which are so clearly very serious? The photographs supports this. The breeding centre is also being obstructive and worse: a troll attack, unjustifiably criticising Aiden’s mother and her family. The troll has been confirmed as an employee at the centre. Once again this behaviour implies culpability.


There are three issues in the aftermath of this unpleasant attack which has left Aiden traumatised and badly injured. The first is that Aiden’s parents do not want to litigate against either the school or the cheetah centre thereby causing bad publicity for these organisations and bad relations. They are simply seeking fair play and compensation to pay for medical expenses to heal their son.

Aiden (he loves sports and animals)

The second is that there are extensive expenses in treating Aiden’s wounds. These are ongoing. There was a delay of 9-10 hours in providing initial treatment of the injuries which has made things worse due to infections which continue to flare up and there is a dislodged bone which cannot be treated until the wounds have healed. At the moment these expenses are being paid for by Aiden’s parents (currently at R70,000 – over $5,000). In order to help pay for Aiden’s medical treatment his mother Donette set up a crowd funding page online (I have closed the link as the funding is over). They have no medical insurance.


The third issue at this stage is the simple fact that both the school and the cheetah breeding centre are liable for Aiden’s injuries. No amount of argument and prevarication can circumvent that obvious conclusion. Aiden did nothing during the visit to the centre to invite the attack. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is shameful that neither the school nor the centre have come clean on this matter, admitted liability for negligence and through their insurers paid ongoing medical expenses. That would have been the proper and right thing to do. Alternatively, they need not admit liability but simply agree to pay ongoing medical expenses until Aiden is fully healed both physically and psychologically.

Aiden playing cricket
Aiden playing cricket

To put Aiden’s family through the added burden of finding sufficient funds to pay for his treatment – and by the appearance of his injuries this will take quite a long time – is unnecessary and unethical.

To be honest, it would help both the school and the cheetah breeding centre to quietly agree to pay full compensation and to get on with it. This would most likely put the matter to rest. It would remove the need for Aiden’s parents to push and to publicise what is going on in order to obtain justice and fair play. There is no benefit to either the school or the cheetah breeding centre to defend the indefensible. They are clearly at fault.

In my opinion, the cheetah centre is the major protagonist. The school organised the educational trip and they are responsible for student safety but the breeding centre clearly had inadequate safety procedures in place and I don’t think it could be argued that the school would have been able to foresee these inadequacies. However, it should have been foreseeable to the breeding centre that this cheetah could attack again because he had previously and quite recently attacked an elderly lady.

There will be no winners if Donette has to fight all the way to obtain justice and compensation. It will just be a hard slog of several years through the civil courts and the outcome will almost certainly be the same as paying compensation by agreement now at a time when it is urgently required. If both the school and cheetah centre act quickly and decisively now in compensating Aiden they’d also help repair some of the negative publicity that they have attracted over this unpleasant incident.

P.S. Donette, Aiden’s mother, desires that the cheetah who attacked her son be treated decently and ultimately released into the wild as planned. This cat should not be punished. He is subject to unnatural surroundings and circumstances.

Donette informs me that the cheetahs at this breeding centre are handled regularly by many people who pay R300 a day to interact with them; stroke, cuddle and pet them. Surely this cannot be consistent with their objectives which is to release cheetahs into the wild. Personally, I have doubts about their high moral objectives of cheetah conservation. To me they seem to be more concerned about making money from the public than genuine conservation.

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15 thoughts on “Aftermath of Cheetah Attack: Struggle to Obtain Justice and Compensation”

  1. This has all been handled so badly by both the school and the Kwa Cheetah breeding centre. It seems those responsible have just shrugged their shoulders and walked away. To now learn that a troll has been making things even worse for the family is unforgiveable.

    Donnette: I really admire that even under the circumstances, you bear no ill will towards the cheetahs themselves.

    Personally I don’t think the Kwa Breeding Centre should remain open as they don’t appear to release any of their animals back into the wild and they are continuing to put other visitors and volunteers in danger. In most cases these ‘volunteers’ pay around GBP 3,000 (USD 4,700) to help out at what they believe are genuine conservation charities.

    Would you consider sharing your experience with the volunteers FB group? It might save someone else from being attacked, especially if they are allowed inside the enclosures with the animals.

    I’ve sent a little something to your fundraiser & wish you and your family well for the future. In the meantime I hope that those responsible grow a conscience and offer to cover Aiden’s ongoing medical expenses.

    1. Michele, you say that the volunteers pay the cheetah breeding centre for the pleasure of being volunteers. Is that correct? It seems to me that the more I hear about this organisation which presents to the world that they are involved in high moral issues concerned with conservation, the more I realise that they are not involved in conservation but making money. But they’re not unusual in that respect. There are so many people in South Africa who dress up their activities as conservation when they are in fact businesses making money out of wildlife. Humans do have a particular knack at making money out of wild species in all kinds of ways. The international trade in wild species dead or alive is worth billions annually. It is shocking and for me very depressing.

      1. Apologies Michael, I hadn’t meant to imply that this cheetah breeding centre charges volunteers a fee to work there. Whilst I understand that volunteers at Kwa pay for their food and accomodation, I don’t know if other fees are payable. Sorry for the confusion.

        However, it is true that many so-called ‘conservation’ organisations (especially in South Africa) do charge volunteers an additional fee on top of food, accomodation etc. Another common ruse is to charge higher than local tourist rates for food and accomodation.

        I’m sure most volunteers don’t mind paying more if costs are transparent and all profits are guaranteed to benefit animals who will eventually be released into protected areas. Sadly not all organisations are well intentioned and many volunteers have unwittingly helped raise lion cubs for the canned hunting trade ๐Ÿ™

        1. Hi Michael and Michelle, just as an aside – we have it on extremely reliable information that in fact the volunteers do pay (or did pay) for working (volunteering) at the centre. And they pay dearly. #ForTheLoveOfWildlife

          I doubt whether when getting involved they realise that it is a commercial business and with the best intentions in the world get involved.

          1. Thanks Donette. Just another money spinning aspect to this wonderfully ethical conservation project ๐Ÿ˜‰

    2. Michele, I thought I recognised the name. You are an angel. I have no words – thank you xoxoxo

      In terms of volunteers paying, yes we know this to be true. It has been confirmed by the highest of high Wildlife Authorities in South Africa.

      If you would like me to briefly mention Aiden’s experience on the group I will gladly do so. If it will assist others in making decisions, then we have done the right thing.

      In terms of the commercial activities now having been closed down by the authorities, and the firm commitment that no harm will come to the animals, we can almost feel the relief and frustration levels drop as they don’t have to be peered at and leered at by hundreds of strange humans.

      We are of course getting troll attacks on Aiden’s Angels Facebook page which I did not set up but which was set up by some young school children who desperately want to help. I have had to come in and delete, monitor and block, because no one should have to read some of the nonsense that is being written there, but I do invite you to join. Sooner rather than later, it will be a fun page of a little boy getting back to normal #Excited I cannot tell you โ™ฅ

      Aiden did ask me last night, “Mommy, is Sky going to be all right?” And I promised him that Sky was going to be absolutely fine, and is being monitored by people who are involved for the right reasons.

  2. why don’t these people just admit to this liability and pay. Donnette don’t back down. Aiden deserves justice. That fence should have been tighter and stronger. They need to pay.

    1. Dear Debra, I fell in love with you ๐Ÿ™‚ We are trying but without the funds to take legal action we have to sit back and wait. A Crowdfunder has been set up to assist with Aiden’s medical bills and Michael has been amazing, and has featured the link on his article.

      We in turn have thanked Michael and his readers on the Funding page at the following link (not spam I promise) – I feel it is the least we can do to thank you for your support.

      BTW Michael is the first person in the world to have had access to and publish the photographs of Aiden’s serious injuries. We trust Michael with Aiden because Michael is just – well trustworthy, factual, no-nonsense, well-researched, and calls a spade a spade.

      SO THANK YOU to all for your comments and support. We will continue with the fundraiser until there is enough to cover existing accounts – we are about R70000 off as we stand – and deal with the next set when it arises ๐Ÿ™‚

      Your support is amazing, thank you so much.

      1. I will email you about a follow up page if that is okay. The story is developing and in the right direction at the moment.

  3. Michael_
    Thank you for posting this story about Aiden and the injuries he sustained from a cheetah. I hope he gets the follow up care he needs.

  4. Sandra Murphey, No. CA, USA

    I think you’ve covered this unfortunate issue very well. It seems irresponsible not to pay for the ongoing medical care, which in the long run could set up a serious future financial consequences for the breeding center.

    1. Yes, it should be a case of full compensation without necessarily admitting liability. This would fix the problem immediately.

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