Cheetah shocks tourists by jumping up on safari jeep

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You’re lucky if on an African safari you get a close encounter with an animal.

But tourists in Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya got a little too close for comfort to a cheetah who decided to take a break on their safari truck –for 45 minutes.

Heart-stopping footage shows the big cat approaching the open-topped safari vehicle.  The cat jumps up, sits upright on the jeep, stretches out and makes himself comfortable.

Guides can be heard reminding the tourists not to move and that the cat is on the truck only "to get a good view."

As the minutes pass, the cheetah gets increasingly comfortable as other tourist vehicles line up to see the spectacle.  After almost 45 minutes, the group can be heard screaming as the cat gets up, turns away from the group and ultimately jumps down from the truck.

The video concludes with the group releasing a collective sigh of relief and exclaiming: "Oh man, thank god. Finally I can breathe."

The Masai Mara National Reserve is famous for having one of the most stable cheetah populations in Kenya--but its population has dropped dramatically over the years due to loss of free-ranging land and disease.   Cheetah are now resident in about 23 percent of their historical range in Kenya. Also causing stress in cat is the spike in tourism that brings with it the the noise of the vehicles and rowdy visitors.

Helping to better understand the plight of the cheetah is the Kenya Wildlife Trust’s Mara Cheetah Project, which aims to identify the major threats to the current population. Click here to find out more about  its preservation efforts: