They say leopards don’t change their spots, but this distant cousin seems to have.
Sylvester the cheetah has formed a warm relationship with his trainer after being saved as an orphaned cub.
The four-year-old will happily sit next to Ed Oelofse, 31, from Zimbabwe, although he could easily ki.l.l a grown man in the wild.
The young cheetah was found in the wild after a lion a.tta.cked and ki.l.led its mother and four siblings.
Ms. Oelofse, a professional animal sitter at Wild Horizons Wildlife Sanctuary, Victoria Falls, has looked after Sylvester, the sole survivor, ever since.
She said: ‘Sylvester is unbelievable. I’m glad we were able to rescue him. ‘
Miss Oelofse tried to train Sylvester to tame so she could sit next to the wild animal without fearing for her life.
She said: ‘I’ve been working with animals all my life. I first started helping out in the safari park, taking pictures of our family, and then participating in the wildlife scene.
‘I worked on a lion breeding project as a lion keeper and the lion training manager basically teaching lions how to work with people and vice versa and is the main instructor.
‘It was a big change from lions to cheetahs and so had to quickly learn to deal with different behaviors but as cheetah manager it was my duties as well as two guides who worked with me, to teach the cheetah how to be an ambassador, do publicity activities, and going for a daily walk for exercise and stimulation.
‘Every Friday we go out with our bus and pick up 20 rural children from school, some of which have never seen cheetahs or elephants before and those that did, understand that they are pests and destructive to normal life, and so brought them to the Wild Horizons Sanctuary, and they can physically interact with elephants and cheetahs to try to provide them with active conservation methods on how to care for the natural environment and habitat.
‘I’ve been the cheetah manager for just coming up to four years. In most of the pictures, they were timed, so it took a few shots to get the right ones, but Gift Siziba, my instructor and manager with Sylvester, brought some with me in them…but yeah, that’s me in all photos. ‘