Safety with lions on safari
I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession. – John SteinbeckM
The mighty and majestic Lion. Made out by some as a roaring beast. Made out by some as a almost kind of personification of a human. Some do tend to forget that a Lion is that; a lion, a wild animal, a creature of God’s creation. Not to be personified, humanised or used for the will of mankind. And as “stamp of approval” on humanities personal interests and agendas.
Social media and the use and misuse of it for personal gain
On social media, concerned tourists are asking whether it is safe to go on safari. Many have criticised the poor woman for leaving her car windows open in spite of the many signs warning her not to do so. However, if an open window is so dangerous, is it safe to go on a safari that uses open vehicles for game drives?
Safety precautions is implemented for the sole reason of the human’s safety as well as those of the animal. Appreciation and utilisation of game animals have been in close comparison with one another. Like the thin line between life and death. Human nature, however, looses focus of this, leading to a catastrophic downfall on both sides of the scale.
Confusing potential tourists even more, news headlines around the world proclaimed: “Lion kills American tourist at a game park in South Africa”. We’ve seen the words game reserve, game park, nature reserve and safari park all used in connection with this incident. The truth is that this was not an African safari and did not happen in a game reserve. This attack happened at a small lion park, which is very different from a normal African game reserve. It is not the first time an incident like this has occurred in a lion park yet you never hear of lions dragging tourists off open safari vehicles in bigger game reserves like the Kruger National Park.
Game Parks versus Natural open plains
The key issue in this case ( game parks) is that these lions are not entirely wild. These lions are kept in enclosures and have been raised in captivity (or in some cases rescued from abusive conditions). When lions are raised like this and fed by humans, they lose their natural fear of humans and they learn to associate humans with food.
If it is not for this help and assistance in preserving our lion population and numbers, we will face the brink of extinction very soon. It has however, need to be done responsibly and with only the animal and the impact of our actions that is taken into consideration before anything is done.
This is the critical difference between lions in a lion park and wild lions in a game reserve. In game reserves, wild lions do not associate human beings with food. They are naturally fearful of humans and, unless you run away, they will not see humans as prey. They also do not associate vehicles with humans or with food.
Obey the rules set
The lion park has had similar incidents before, and the management is well aware of the dangerous nature of captive lions. This is why there are clear signs all over the park warning visitors not to alight from their vehicle or even to open their windows. Unfortunately, this tourist did not heed those warnings. Yet in the Kruger National Park, visitors have been driving around with open windows for many decades, and thousands have enjoyed close-up encounters with wild lions from the back of an open safari vehicle. Millions of tourists have safely visited Kruger in their own vehicles, and you never hear of lions dragging people from their cars there. Of course, there are rules in Kruger too. Do not alight from your vehicle. Please do not disturb the animals. You must not feed the animals. Do not stand up or hang out of the vehicle. If you heed these rules, you will be perfectly safe.
Before travelling, do some homework, make sure of the places and their animals you intend to visit. Be willing to learn by listening. To understand the actions of those who has that personal interaction and experience with these wild animals. As the old saying goes – “do not pride yourself on being a “Jack of all trades, and a Master of none”.
Nature is our responsibility, entrusted to us to take care of and utilise responsibly. There are so much beauty in nature to see. Do not keep yourself from experiencing this by thinking you are smarter than any animal. Or thinking that you can predict behaviour of wild animals. Even those raised and rehabilitated still has that little “wild flame” burning in their being. One should never loose sight of that.