A Kiwi teenager attacked by a cheetah while on a family holiday in South Africa was lucky he wasn't more seriously hurt in the "harrowing" ordeal, an animal behaviour expert says.

Isaac Driver, 14, received injuries to his back and shoulder when he was attacked while leaving a cheetah enclosure and pinned to the ground by the big cat, Radio New Zealand reported.

His mother Mandy Driver told Radio New Zealand Isaac was okay, and she did not want the park shut down.

Massey University lecturer in animal behaviour and welfare Rachael Stratton said while the attack would have been terrifying, "it could have been much worse".


Cheetahs weren't usually aggressive but because they were wild animals could be unpredictable and there was a myriad of reasons why the animal may have attacked, she told the Herald.

"It's really hard to say without seeing the behaviour at the time. [It] could be predatory, could be play, could be fear and could be frustration."

Isaac and his family were touring a safari park in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday morning (local time).

They were among a group of about 20 people at the Emdoneni park who were supervised as they patted two cheetahs.

Mandy Driver told RNZ that as the group left the enclosure, one of the cheetahs pushed her son to the ground with "full force".

Driver received injuries to his back and shoulder. Photo / Facebook
Driver received injuries to his back and shoulder. Photo / Facebook

"[It] pushed through a few different people, caught my daughter's top, ripped all her top, and then landed on my son as he was facing it . . . and pushed him to the ground," she said.

"[The cheetah] landed him on the ground as though it was eating him."

RNZ reported that the safari park refunded the cost of the tour.