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.
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.
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 has set up a crowd funding page online. 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.
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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