Cheetah wrestles with human ‘best friend’ at South African sanctuary

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa, July 1 (UPI) — A man who became “best friends” with a cheetah at a South African sanctuary shared video of the affectionate feline cuddling and wrestling with him.

Dolph C. Volker posted a video to YouTube showing one of his extended bonding sessions with Gabriel, a 10-month old cheetah at the Cheetah Experience sanctuary in Bloemfontein.

“Gabriel and I were great friends. I gave him all the right reasons to like me. Hand fed him, played with him, walked him, wrestled with him, pet him, relaxed with him, let him do what he wanted, and even slept next to him inside his enclose (which was a bed inside the owners home),” he wrote in the video’s description.

Volker said the encounter in the video was one of his last before leaving the sanctuary. He said he returned a year later and discovered the cheetah still remembered him.

Volker cautioned cheetah fans not to try to replicate his behavior in the wild.

“This cheetah was hand raised and quite tame and I was able to completely earn his trust, and he mine, but there are always risks working with wild animals. The only injury I got the entire time I knew him were dew claws to my forehead, that his scalp grooming which is like rubbing sandpaper on it; making it RAW! I picked scabs off my scalp 4 days after I left,” he said.

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