Authorities in South Africa’s Kruger National Park are investigating a hit-and-run incident in which a cheetah was struck and left to die on a park road.
A photo of the dead animal was posted Wednesday by Ralf Kalwa to the Road Ecology Facebook page, in which Kalwa described the cheetah as “one of 3 siblings.”
Times Live reports that the carcass of the sub-adult female cheetah was discovered a day earlier by a park ranger, and that the animal had been dead for hours.
“There were no witnesses at the scene and the ranger alerted all the gates in that vicinity to be on the lookout for a damaged vehicle,” SANParks spokesman Isaac Phaala said.
Rumors implied that a government minister might have struck the cheetah.
William Mabasa, another SANParks spokesman, said there were no ministers in the park at the time. On Thursday Mabasa's statement regarding the incident was posted on the park's Facebook page:
"These kind of things pains us as officials when people come to the park but do not want to behave responsibly by following the rules of the park, because that is where the answer to all these things that are reported every other day.
"Our law enforcement officers can only do much because they cannot be everywhere to police every vehicle that is in the park from the time they come in until they go out. We call upon anyone who knows as to who the culprit is to contact me and give me information that can help us to apprehend them.
"The story of the minister is not true because there was no minister in Skukuza yesterday or anytime this week, and there is no one in the OPS room who has that information.
"This to us is a very serious matter, speculations do not help us at all to get to the culprit. I included my number here for anyone with information to call directly, 0828073919."
Despite strict rules regarding speed and proximity to animals, animals in South Africa’s largest wilderness reserve are sometimes hit by vehicles.
Times Live reports that in 2012 the driver of a delivery truck was fined heavily after striking a herd of impala – killing seven of the animals – while passing another vehicle at high speed.
The driver, a contract employee, was banned from entering the park for five years.