Here's one family dynamic you should never try to emulate.
"Cheetah House," new video posted to YouTube April 25 by Imogen Richards, shows two toddlers playing with cheetahs as if they were house cats. The video has grabbed attention for its other startling images of the cheetahs, Wakku and Skyla, living as pets with 1-year-old Kayla Schoeman and her 3-year-old brother, Malan, in South Africa. Parents Hein and Kim Schoeman are animal trainers on the Albertinia animal reserve where the cubs, now 1, were born.
As the film above shows, the family has no qualms about incorporating the cheetahs into domestic fun, like cuddling, toy time, leashed walks and jeep rides.
Having the world's fastest land mammal for a pet has its advantages in a game of fetch, but it can be gruesome when training the cheetahs to hunt, as the video shows in graphic footage.
Both cheetahs will be freed into the wild eventually, the Schoemans say in the film. Until then, they are part of the family. With limits.
“When you raise them, it’s extremely strict," the husband told ABC News. "You need to establish dominance and respect first of all and maintain that." The children have been carefully schooled in how to safely interact with the cats, the trainers emphasized.
The living experiment illustrates how humans and nature can find common ground, Hein Schoeman said to ABC.
The Schoemans assumed care of the two cheetahs because they feared the cats' mother wouldn't be able to take care of all four of her cubs.
As Cheetah.org points out, fast cats have a domestic history. "Pharaohs kept cheetahs as close companions," according to the site, and the animals figured prominently in Ancient Egypt's notion of death. It was believed that the cheetah "would carry the Pharaoh's soul to the afterworld."
Despite being able to accelerate from 0 to 64 mph in 3 seconds, cheetahs are losing the race for survival. There are now less than 15,000 in Africa, the Wildlife Conservation Society says.
Care to aid conservation efforts without adopting cheetahs of your own? (Seriously, don't adopt your own.) Visit the WCS.
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