Should We Be Walking With Lions?

Very recently, I read an article about a lady who was attacked by a lion cub while on a guided lion walk in Zimbabwe.  It seems to be a completely unprovoked attack; there were other people in the group and all guests were accompanied by professional rangers who interact regularly with these huge cats.

The Lion Walking Safari is not a new phenomenon (although certainly we have been walking with elephants for much longer).  I know that guides are confident in their abilities of reading wild animals; and they should be, they study their behavior, they live with them in the bush, and they have constant contact with them.  It is a guide’s job to be aware of the animals’ demeanor at all times, and they are very good at this job.  I trust the guides implicitly when I am in a vehicle or on foot in the wild with them.

I have spent hours on game drives and have been privileged to experience Africa’s magnificent game in many of her wonderful parks.  I also have a few walking safaris in my legs.  There is nothing more thrilling than being out in the wild with the open plains of Africa stretching endlessly in front of you.  What are you going to see?  What is out there for you to experience?

But I do believe strongly that wild animals are wild animals.  Yes, you can read signs and this is what we rely on our rangers for – and most of us will never experience the unfortunate situation that this woman was forced to endure.  But what about that one sign that the guides might have missed?  What was it that the rangers on this lion walk looked over?  How will they prevent this from happening again?   Lions are wild and should remain out in the wild, free to roam as they have done for millennia.  We should be able to interact with them at a safe distance where the possibility of what happened is NOT a possibility at all.

But this is also an amazing African attraction, and a huge draw for tourists from overseas.  Who is not tempted to get as close as possible to the King of Africa?  But we need to make sure that something like this never happens again.  Where do we draw the line in the future, both to ensure the safety of tourists in Africa while also continuing to offer the most amazing and exciting adventures possible?

To read the press statement released (PDF) please click here:  Press Statement Lion Encounter 3 May 2011

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