Ian Khama has close encounter with big cat during visit to military base in Gaborone, but only suffers minor injury
An overexcited cheetah jumped up from behind a fence and scratched the face of Botswana’s president, Ian Khama, causing minor injuries, his spokesman Jeff Ramsay said on Monday, adding it was “a freak accident, not an attack”.
Ramsay said Khama did not go to hospital but did see a doctor, who put two stitches in his nose. Khama, 60, was asked about the injury when he appeared at public meetings in south-east Botswana with a plaster on his nose.
The cheetah is part of a menagerie kept by soldiers at the Botswana defence force barracks at Mogoditshane in Gaborone, the capital.
Ramsay said Khama was watching the cheetahs being fed, as he often does, when “one of them got excited and jumped up at him”. Its claw reached above the enclosure, Ramsay said, and caught Khama, who is over 6ft (1.8m) tall. “The president was scratched a bit on the nose and elsewhere … the claw basically grazed his face.”
He said it happened very swiftly, catching the president by surprise.
Cheetahs, the fastest land animals in the world, are a vulnerable species with just 7,000 adults remaining in Africa and Iran, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Khama established the Botswana Defence Force animal awareness park in 1989 when he was a lieutenant general in command of Botswana’s armed forces. He wanted to teach wild animal behaviour to soldiers who were being deployed to fight poachers killing rhinoceroses and elephants.
The park, which is open to the public and is a favourite outing for schoolchildren, now holds lions, leopards, crocodiles, snakes, monkeys, baboons and zebras.