Victoria Falls Adventures | Walking with Lions

Walking with lions at Victoria Falls.
A "Walking with Lions" encounter at Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve is a must-do! Here there are a number of cubs that are on loan from a private game reserve outside Harare. The cubs are coached by experienced animal trainers to be comfortable in the presence of humans. Operators in the Victoria Falls area have pioneered a unique experience that allows you to come into close contact with the alpha predator of the African savanna - the lion. Lions are extremely dangerous animals. However, up until the age of 15 months, they are amenable to being handled by humans - after that they become unpredictable.The Walking with Lions experience has drawn some controversy. Many conservationists are strictly against this form of wild animal encounter, saying that should the trained lions be released into the bush they either become man-killers or are incapable of fending for themselves. This debate is by no means clear cut and there are several ramifications that still need investigation.

The experience involves walking through the bush with a number of cubs or young adult lions for about a kilometre, at which point tourists are able to pat and touch them.

The trainers are on standby if any of the lions get too playful, and participants in the encounter are given a thorough safety briefing as to what to do - and more importantly what not to do.For instance, crouching down or suddenly running away will elicit hunting instincts in the cubs, and they may respond aggressively. Operators will also not allow anyone under 1,2m to participate in the encounter because lions, by instinct, will go for smaller prey. It's a fascinating and memorable experience to walk through the bush as the young cats cavort and patrol their environment.A Walking with Lions programme is also being established in the Dambwa Forest on the Zambian side of the river. At the time of going to press, it was unclear as to whether certain obstacles had been overcome in establishing the project.Lions are the biggest and most social of the African cats, living communally in prides, which vary according to the availability of prey. Pride leadership often shifts between several individual animals - male and female, but the social structure of the pride hinges around the bond between related lionesses, who collaborate in all tasks, from raising cubs to hunting.Male lions come and go - often in spectacular battles over territory or individual dominance - but the pride cohesion remains unaffected, firmly under female control.

Lions favour open woodlands and thick scrub, the type of landscape that allows them to get as close to their prey as possible without being seen. In the Victoria Falls area, the best chance of lion sightings is where the big game herds are - in the Hwange and Chobe areas.

As a rule, lions hunt mostly at night and rest during the day, but are often active at dawn and dusk - and on cooler days. During the day, they rest in thorn thickets, often near water holes. Lions typically feed every three or four days, and need to average between 5kg and 7kg of meat a day. But they can go without food for over a week and then tear into prey, eating up to 50kg of meat at a time - that's almost a quarter of an average lion's body weight.Lions hunt either collaboratively or by themselves. Collaborative hunting usually involves the males approaching the intended prey upwind with the intention of driving it towards lionesses hiding in the bush downwind. Lions are not as fast as most of their prey so they rely heavily on the element of surprise when hunting.

They will typically attempt to get to within 30m of their prey before charging. They generally don't have the inclination for a long chase and will not pursue their prey very far if the first attack fails. In a successful hunt, the prey is knocked off balance, dragged down and then killed with a bite to the back of the neck or the throat.In some cases, a kill can be a bloody, drawn-out procedure. Buffalo have been known to fend off lion attacks for hours before succumbing to loss of blood and energy. The strongest male lion will eat first, followed by other members of the pride. Lionesses will feed themselves first, with cubs getting the scraps.What do lions eat? The short answer is quite a lot. In South Africa's Kruger National Park, studies have shown that lions have a broad diet with 37 animal species on the menu, including ostriches, quelea nestlings, tortoises and small crocodiles.

Their preference is for buffalo, giraffe, zebra and wildebeest among the bigger animals, and porcupine and warthog as smaller game. They are even known to take elephants. Another fact not commonly appreciated is that lions are not just hunters, but scavengers as well, often chasing smaller predators - like cheetah - off their kills. In some instances, up to 50% of a lion's diet can come from scavenging, not hunting.

The King of the Jungle

Lions are the royalty of the African bush. A thousand years ago, they roamed as far afield as southern Europe, the Middle East and Asia, but they are now found in the wild primarily in Africa, although small populations of Asian lions still exist.

In Africa, lions are generally restricted to the bigger game reserves. Their association with leadership and power is reflected by their impressive size and the fact that their lifestyles allow them to sleep a lot - up to 18 hours a day. They are awesome animals, with males weighing up to 225kg and females up to 150kg. Their average life span in the bush is probably around 15 years. They live longer in captivity.Brett Hilton-Barber and Lee R. Berger. Copyright 2010 Prime Origins.

* Please Note

Please note that the lions used in walking with lions programmes are rarely, if ever, released back into the wild. Please read more on the topic about the connection between walking with lions and canned hunting:
http://www.cannedlion.org/lion-walks.html

Africa Safari Holidays Specialists
  • Customer Support
  • Tel: +27 21 424 1037
  • Fax: +27 21 424 1036
  • Contact by Mail
  • Business Hours
  • Mon - Fri. 08:00 - 17:00
  • Saturday. 08:00 - 12:00
©2017 Siyabona Africa (Pty)Ltd - Private Tours and Safari