By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – This past summer the Lowy family of Shrewsbury took a trip of a lifetime to South Africa and Zimbabwe. The trip was meticulously planned; well, except for one thing – a very close encounter with a cheetah!
Family patriarch, David, 51, was bit by a cheetah while touring the Emdoneni Cheetah Project, a cheetah rehabilitation facility.
The family: David, his wife Andrea, and their three children Annalise (21) Aaron (16) and Dylan (13) left on July 20. They were accompanied by David’s sister Jennifer and her husband Joe Page.
“We flew into Johannesburg then on to Richard’s Bay and then took a van through the rolling hills of East South Africa,” David explained.
They drove through a small town, Hluhluwe (pronounced “Shlew-shlewy”), before reaching their resort – Zulu Nyala Heritage Safari Lodge.
After a few days of safaris and visiting neighboring reserves, which David said were beautiful, they visited the Emdoneni Cheetah Project.
All was going well until a cheetah in an enclosed area started to track him.
“We are going around this big cage and it just follows me and it follows me and we stopped and we looked at it and it stopped and then we went and it came and you can see it drooling,” he recalled.
David, who is confined to a wheelchair after having had an accident at the age of 19, got a bit too close to the enclosure.
“The Cheetah put its paw through and around my leg and put its little head through the little hole and bit my shoulder. I didn’t do anything or say anything. It was surreal!” he said. “It was so unbelievable and Andrea screams and everybody else is in commotion. My brother-in-law Joe pushes me out of my chair and gets me away from the cheetah.”
David said that it was very frightening for his family. They immediately went back to the lodge – all the while, David was assuring everyone that he was OK.
Medical personnel, a veterinarian, the manager and the facility’s owner were quickly dispatched to attend to the situation. He was examined by a doctor who cleaned the wound and administered antibiotics.
While in the doctor’s office, David received an education not only in local medicine but also local politics and race relations in post-apartheid South Africa. He had previously been advised by his guide to not go into the village without him and he had noticed that his resort was gated and guarded.
Fortunately, he and his family were able to continue on with the rest of the journey.
After returning home he followed up with his own physician. The wound has healed but he does have a scar as a souvenir.
David said that he wouldn’t change a thing about the trip and that the cheetah experience was a positive one. It allowed him to see and learn things about South Africa that otherwise he might not have.
He noted: “The whole South African experience was incredible.”