These footballing cheetahs have no need to bend the rules. Guests at Akwaaba Lodge in Rustenburg, South Africa, get to see the big-cats’ skills in action at the facility’s predator park. The tame brother-and-sister named Lucky and Leila have been raised by humans since they were cubs but are still capable of sprinting at 70mph.
But far from just speed machines, these photographs show the four-year-olds trapping, dribbling and passing the ball.
George Goma, from Akwaaba Lodge, said: ‘They were the first babies born from our breeding pair and enjoyed each other’s company so much that Leila, the wife of the owner, couldn’t separate them.
‘From three months old she started training them when they went out doors for some vitamin D from the sun.
‘The owner’s kids used to play soccer and the cheetahs decided to join in and also play soccer – that’s when we realised they loved it.
‘Lucky and Leila have got great skills and they can kick, dribble and even pass the ball to you.
‘People are thrilled and are amazed to see them actually playing soccer.’
The cheetahs are part of a breeding programme at Akwaaba Lodge, which runs several big-cat projects. Others include efforts to conserve Siberian tigers, jaguars and lions.
The main aim of its conservation projects is to raise awareness about the numbers of cats being slaughtered for furs or being raised in abusive circumstances.