9-year-old flees after facing escaped cheetah

A NINE-year-old boy fled from his back garden – after spotting a cheetah walking up the drive. The animal had escaped from nearby Hamerton Zoo and frightened Toby Taylor as he played on his bicycle at Rookery Farm near Sawtry. As the youngster and his mot

A NINE-year-old boy fled from his back garden - after spotting a cheetah walking up the drive.

The animal had escaped from nearby Hamerton Zoo and frightened Toby Taylor as he played on his bicycle at Rookery Farm near Sawtry.

As the youngster and his mother Jules looked on from the kitchen window, the cheetah began to rip apart the cycle seat and tyres.

Toby said: "I was really scared and went hot all over and started shaking."


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Mrs Taylor said: "I didn't believe him when he came running into the house shouting 'Mummy, there's a cheetah in the garden' - I thought he was joking.

"But he looked petrified and when I looked out of the kitchen window and saw the cheetah I couldn't believe my eyes.

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"I started panicking. It was standing on Toby's bike pawing at it as if it were a toy and ripping it to bits. I didn't know what to do so I phoned 999.

"When zoo workers tried to put a harness on the cheetah, he started scratching at them and biting them."

Mrs Taylor said the cheetah was in her garden for more than 40 minutes.

"It wasn't jumping at the windows or doors trying to get at us," she said, "and it didn't look vicious, but it's a wild animal and I wasn't going to go outside to find out if it was friendly.

"We weren't terrorised but we were too scared to leave the house."

Zoo staff managed to put the cheetah in the family's stables, where he remained until a crate arrived to transport the three-year-old animal, called Akea, back to the zoo.

Friday afternoon's ordeal left Toby having nightmares, but in a bid to put him at ease his mother took him to the zoo on Saturday to visit the cheetah.

Mrs Taylor said: "He was a little scared but it's completely different when the animal is caged in and I think he felt a bit better after seeing it again.

"We like the zoo and do not want to get it in trouble, but this should not have happened." Mrs Taylor said someone from the zoo visited her yesterday (Tuesday) to apologise and offered to pay the repair bill for Toby's bike.

Andrew Swales, from Hamerton Zoo, said: "Akea was born at the park, is completely tame and was hand-reared from a tiny baby by our head keeper.

"Akea was away for a few minutes, visited our next-door neighbour, had his harness and lead put on and returned home. We assume that it was a faulty electric fencing unit that caused the problem. This has already been replaced.

"When our keepers arrived in our neighbour's garden, Akea was happily playing with a bicycle, which must have reminded him of one of his toys.

"He wouldn't pose any danger, and his reaction to strangers would be the same as a pet dog - either a friendly greeting or a guarded retreat.

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