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South African Air Force cheetahs wound officer

A pair of male cheetahs used by the South African Air Force to scare off animals that wander onto runways have attacked and injured a female officer. The cheetahs will remain on the base to continue their duties.

The two male cheetahs wandered into a hangar at Makhado air base near the border with Zimbabwe and mauled a female warrant officer as she tried to take a picture, the South African Air Force said.

"People chased them out, but the warrant officer followed them to take photographs. One of the cheetahs growled at her. She turned back and started screaming. The first cheetah went for her and the second joined in," Brigadier General Marthie Visser told dpa news agency.

Cheetahs, the world's fastest land animal, have been used by the South African Air Force since the 1990s to control wildlife posing a danger to aviation by straying onto runways.

The base is surrounded by wildlife parks and the Air Force said cheetahs act as a natural control on wildlife, including warthogs, antelope and impala.

The officer was released from the hospital after sustaining minor injuries.

The cheetahs arrived to the base last week from a local breeding program and will continue their duties.

cw/bw (AFP, AP, dpa)