Forget hamsters and rabbits... this school’s pet is CHEETAH!

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SCHOOL pets are often cuddly, cute and easily kept in a small cage in the classroom.

Hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs are often the traditional choice.

But in Hucknall, the National Church Of England Academy has taken a left-field walk on the wild side.

For one of its ‘houses’ has adopted a cheetah!

The pupils at the Annesley Road school have joined forces with the world-renowned Born Free Foundation, which offers the chance to help safeguard endangered animals and keep them in their natural habitats.

The group from National have adopted Menelik — a baby cheetah who was found tied up by string in a shop in Ethiopia and suffering from a combination of health problems, including pneumonia, diarrhoea and dehydration.

Luckily, he was rescued and is now living at a 77-hectare Born Free reserve 30 kilometres from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

National has signed up to an initial year-long adoption but hopes to continue supporting Menelik, who is named after a famous Ethiopian emperor.

Money paid by the school will go towards funding his daily food and care.

Kevin Barnett is the tutor of York 4 at National, which is the name of the ‘house’ responsible for adopting Menelik.

He said: “Other groups were doing various things for charity, such as cake sales. We wanted to do something different and had spoken about getting a pet. The adoption of Menelik seemed like the perfect opportunity.”

Born Free’s head office is based in the UK. The organisation was originally formed in 1984 by actors Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, who starred in the 1966 film ‘Born Free’.

The Born Free Foundation was officially launched in 1998 as an umbrella organisation to encompass various campaigns to protect endangered wildlife.

One of those campaigns is in aid of big cats, such as cheetahs and lions. Other initiatives include the protection of primates, whales, elephants and bears.