August 1, 2015: There is so much news these days about the American dentist that killed Cecil, the Lion in Zimbabwe. The thought of killing one of these amazing animals is absolutely horrifying. In 2006 I was privileged to lead a group tour to South Africa that included a visit to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. While we were there three of us went on a walk with the llons. This occurred at dawn. We were taken to some kind of preserve or sanctuary where young lions live. We had a guide who carried a shotgun and a stick. With him was a bush paramedic who had a very large medical emergency kit strapped on his back. Also there was at least one other trainer who kept a pouch of snacks on his belt. We arrived by Jeep. The trainer went into the bush to wake up the lions and bring them out to a walking path.
The three of us were each given a very thin stick and were instructed that should one of the lines approach us to hold the stick in front of us. We were told the lions would be fearful of the stick and not attack. Further we were instructed that the lions were playful but they were still wild. These lions were used for walks until they got too old and then were released into the wild. Also, the week before we arrived one of the lions broke free from the walk and chased down and killed some kind of animal. This is their nature. But, once they kill they cannot be used for lion walks anymore. We were also instructed not to scream [not encouraging] and not to run. We're also told if we wanted to pet the lions that we should let them know first and to not put our hand toward their face to pet them since they might interpret that as food. I joked to Lisa, the younger of my two colleagues that I was not worried because I just had to be able to out run her. I started calling her "Snack Pack."
It was a pleasant, gorgeous walk and the animals were playful. Petting them was amazing since their fur is very coarse. We were a little anxious but at no time did we feel we were really in danger. The animals seemed to enjoy the walk and played with each other. I hope you enjoy the pictures.