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    Lions hunting, Zimbabwe

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    When walking with lions carry a big stick

    March 30th, 2007 by mary

    We spent a few days at a park in Zimbabwe that is breeding lions for release into the wild. We got to spend quite a bit of time with a group of 5 month old cubs as well as a pair of 10 month old males that are being slated for the first release into the wild. Apparently, there has never been a successful release of lions into the wild. The lion rehab folks at African Impact have been working on this for something like 20 years.

    Mary’s fun:
    I only had to point the stick at them a few times to stop them from charging me. The 5 month old lion cubs were the most playful and rambunctious. They tackled each other at every opportunity and would give us the “naughty” look as if we were injured gazelles. But you rub them on their bellies and they’d calmed down enough so we could open their jaws to check out their teeth and retract the paws to reveal their claws. Of course we didn’t do any of that when they were eating and had a chunk of cow in front of them. Something about instinct overriding discipline. The 10 month adolescent lions were our favorite. They were so big you could stroke their backs while they walked and letting them use your hand as a chew toy was no longer suggested. But they were much calmer so you could sit with them for a long time rubbing their fur and playing with their tail. Their expressions were majestic and their eyes had a keen focus. Just watching them walk was mesmerizing. They still climb trees with comical awkwardness though. One fell out of the tree and leapt right at me, luckily I stepped back fast enough to have him fall at my feet instead of my head. Although the split second curiosity of experiencing a lion pounce on me was tempting. The lion walks were easily one of the highlights of our trip, if only we could’ve taken one home.

    Usually, the lions are fed in their cages. But every couple weeks, the cats intended for release into parks are allowed out at night to practice hunting. We got to go along! Under a near full moon, we loaded into the back of an open jeep and followed 4 anxious lions as they were released from their pens into their 3000 acre buffet stocked with wildebeast, various antelope, giraffe, zebra and elephant. Sometimes the lions were ahead, leading us through the brush. Sometimes they slowed and walked surrounding us. After a while wandering in the dark, we saw the reflections of wildebeast and impala eyes ahead. The lions didn’t take long to decide what to do and suddenly we’re moving 60km/hr through brush and trees. Yes, trees. The lions went under them and we drove through them to keep up.
    Within seconds of the attack, the dominant lion had snared an infant gazelle and was discussing dining rights with the other three. We spent the next hour and a half watching the ritual feeding as the big cat slowly ground through flesh and bone of her prey – sharing not one bit with the others. Sad and gruesome, yet simply amazing.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    One Response

    1. Dad Says:

      tickle, tickle, little kiddie

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