Walking with Lions in Zimbabwe
Walking with lions was an activity that I wasn’t 100% sure was conservation-friendly. The more I travel the more I want to know more about what is good and what is bad for the environment and wildlife around me. This time around I didn’t have time to be fully informed and having been there I’m still not sure what side of the fence I sit on about this one.
Lion encounter in conjunction with Antelope Park and Lion Alert is a spot in Zimbabwe where you can walk alongside some tame captive lions and pat them as you go for a walk in their park. Split into two groups of about 8 people you each take turns walking alongside the lions as they walk and play, meanwhile the guide goes mad taking photos on your camera and shouting at you to pat the lions. After 5 minutes or so, you move back and the next person has their turn.
The cubs my group spent most of the time with were two 9 month old female cubs, then we had 10 minutes with the other groups 18 month old cubs by the water.
To be honest, I felt it was really touristy. I was quite happy just to be near the lions so it was a bit annoying being shouted at to pat them all the time. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity though (unless I volunteer at Antelope Park in the coming years) so it was something to remember being so close to them.
The lion alert program breeds captive lions and then introduces them into the semi-wild where they will have cubs and then those cubs will be introduced into the full wild. It seems a bad short-term experience, but for a good long-term objective to increase the wild lion population.
It was not recommended to do this by our tour guide because having lions in contact with humans can shorten their life span. I totally understand this, which is why I’m not 100% sure if it is worth it for their long-term goal. The program has not yet released any lions into the wild successfully, so I’ll be interested to see if it works in the coming years. In the meantime, I’ll sit on the fence until I can research it some more.