Families fled in terror when a ferocious-looking cheetah escaped from its cage and began stalking round a safari park full of tourists in Kent yesterday.
Mums and dads grabbed their frightened children and hid after the jungle big cat went on the run at Port Lympne wildlife park.
Kent Live reports that visitors were shut in shops for their own safety at the attraction – which hit the headlines when Peter Andre took his family out there last year.
The savage five foot long slavering beast was on the loose for nearly half an hour before it was tempted back into its pen by lumps of meat tossed into its enclosure.
Visitors were escorted to ‘safe areas’ and no-one had been in danger – a park spokesman later insisted.
Cheetah’s are the world’s fastest animal, and can spring at 75mph – almost three times as quick as Usain Bolt.
One mum, 38-year-old Maggie Jones, of Maidstone, who was visiting the park with husband Gary, 39, and their children Danielle, 11, and Harry, 13, said “It was pretty scary.
“Word quickly spread that a big cat was on the loose and parents were shooing their children into the shops and even into the toilets.
“Everyone was looking round nervously in case it was about to jump out on us.
“They reassured us it was harmless but none of the mums and dads were taking any chances.
“Apparently it got out of its enclosure and was on the loose where they take safari buses full of people.”
Port Lympne animal director Adrian Harland said “This particular cheetah was no real threat to our guests.
“He only climbed out to get back with his mother after having been separated to stop him eating all her dinner.
“The cheetah was calm and pacing the enclosure fence looking to get back in.
“Some food was thrown into the enclosure and the cheetah walked back in to get it. No vet intervention was needed.
“The full escape procedure was run because the safari lorries travel past the enclosure.
“We have secured the enclosures perimeter fencing to ensure that the cheetah cannot climb out again.”
Another visitor, Alice Snape, took to Twitter to say her group had hid in a toilet during the incident.
She tweeted ‘Alice Snape @MoreWhiteQueen Locked in the loos as a cheetah on the loose OMG @portlympnepark #cheetahontheloose.’
There were also other reports on social media that visitors were placed in the tapir enclosure and the park’s gift shop.
Port Lympne, spread over 600 acres near Hythe, Kent, says it is ‘home to the UK’s most authentic safari experience, The African Experience – 100 acres alive with African animals.
“Join our safari vehicles to see animals including zebras and giraffes wandering freely then head off on foot around the rest of the park to see the big cats and primates. Look out for the baby giraffe and rhino born in 2016!
“Visitors to Port Lympne throughout the year are promised a super, natural and epic day out as they explore wooded pathways to discover where the wild things are and see the UK’s largest herd of black rhino, big cats, small cats, primates, western lowland gorillas and more.
“Visitors can also book additional activities for an extra special day, including bespoke safaris, guided tours, team building activities, keeper experiences and many more. Restaurants and kiosks are located around the park providing a variety of hot and cold snacks.
“The Reserve, is the only visitor attraction in the UK offering a variety of short break accommodations, including fun and family friendly camping at Pinewood pods, luxury glamping at multi award winning Livingstone Lodge and the newly launched Bear Lodge, year round relaxation at Livingstone Cottage and the boutique Port Lympne Hotel and the height of contemporary style at the Treehouse Hotel.
“In 2016 Port Lympne opened the Dinosaur Forest giving visitors the chance to step into a jurassic world with the largest collection of life-sized DINOSAURS in Europe! You can marvel at the tremendous t- rex, stare at the stegosaurus, feel the terror of the pterodactyl and delight at the sheer size of the diplodocus!
“Anatomically correct and totally authentic, the dinosaur experience isn’t just for scares, dinosaur rangers are on-hand to tell the story of the animal kingdom millions of years ago, share detailed stories and give exciting presentations. You can even become a paleontologist and dig for your very own fossils or create your own dinosaur to take home.”