Hunts Post reporter Jade Fell and photographer Helen Drake were invited to Hamerton Zoo to meet some of the new arrivals this spring.

Among them were cheetah cubs, who were born six months ago and have recently been moved into a temporary enclosure where they can be seen by the public for the first time.

Here Jade tells of how she was allowed into the enclosure and made a new pal:

I’ve always been an animal lover, so when the opportunity arose for me to get up close and personal with a pair of cheetah cubs I reacted with all the calm and collectiveness of a 
love-starved puppy.

Brother and sister Barney and Jana were hand-reared by the keepers at Hamerton when a litter of six proved too much for their mother.

The effect of the human contact on the animals is evident – stood next to the enclosure the sound of loud purring could be heard as zookeeper Sarah Fortescue enticed them out of their beds.

Then, appropriately dressed in kitten heels and a blazer, I stepped eagerly into the enclosure in the hope of making friends with one of the cubs.

I had been told that Jana was “the feisty one”, while Barney was more relaxed and cuddly.

And it really didn’t take long for Jana to live up to her reputation by playfully jumping onto the back of the keeper.

I decided to stick with Barney, and was surprised to find that, despite being the size of a small Labrador, he was really no different to a housecat. He lolled casually on the ground next to me as I scratched behind his ears, occasionally looking up to give my hand an affectionate lick, or pose for the camera.

Within a few minutes I was well and truly enamored with the little guy, who, if I do say so myself, seemed quite fond of me too. Unfortunately all good things come to an end, and after a rather reluctant goodbye I left the enclosure to pick my way through the crowd of spectators who had gathered during my visit.