23.01.2009 - 23.01.2009 23 °C
Every day at 6.30am and 4.30pm we take the walking lions out for walks in the bush. There are currently only 2 walking lions and they willingly follow us out of their enclosure. We usually walk for between 1.5 to 2 hours although once a week, usually before they are due to be fed, we walk for 6 hours to give them plenty of time to practice their hunting skills.
As a volunteer we have two training sessions on how to handle the lions and what to do when they stalk us or misbehave. There is usually three lion handlers on each walk, volunteers and sometimes a guide with a handful of paying guests.
The lions walk with us as their pride. The lion handlers act as the dominant members of the pride and regularly challenge the lions to show them who's boss. The handlers are their for our protection. The volunteers act as equals in the pride and generally interact with the lions quietly and gently giving the odd ankle tap to make sure the lions don't challenge us too often. The guests get to walk beside the lions, occasionally crouching down and interacting with them for photos.
One of the lions, Sahara, is a keen hunter, regularly stalking the park's game without any help from Soriaya who doesn't really get it and often ruins everything by stalking Sahara. I was lucky enough to witness them make their first kill during a very long morning walk. Sahara had been unsuccessfully stalking Impala in the long grass when she disturbed a very young hiding Kudu, took chase and caught it. When we finally caught up with her, she was proudly sitting on the Kudu, apparently unsure what to do with it. Unfortunately the Kudu let out the occasional scream and eventually the more aggressive Soriaya took it and killed it. It took 8 minutes from catch to kill and 20 minutes for the 2 lions to devour the entire animal. What an amazing experience to watch 2 young hand reared lions make their first ever kill but to be on foot chasing with them through the bush then standing only a few feet away while they enjoyed their meal. Well done girls!
We are not allowed to carry anything on the lion walks or wear any bright or striped clothing. When the lions are hungry and the temperature is cool they will often stalk us and sometimes snarl at us. Most of the time they are placid, especially the more they get to know you and I really look forward to walking with them every day.