|cannot express the enjoyment of today...Walking with the Lions! This was what I had been waiting to do since the beginning of this trip!
The lion population has decreased 80 to 90 percent over the last 30 years. The ALERT project gets cubs from the breeding sanctuary when they are about three months old and works with them with walking with people. The second stage of the project introduces the lions to a controlled wild environment. Radio collars are attached and taken to environment where there are animals for them to hunt; there is no longer any human contact. When it is felt the lions are ready, they move to the third stage. They are in a controlled wild environment where hyenas have been added. These are animals that prey upon lions. Any cubs born during this stage are raised in the wild environment. The final stage is when the lions can be moved as a pride into the wild. It could be a pride of females, males or mixed. The project has moved 15-16 lions to this stage.
We had about an hour to walk with the lions, pet them and have our photos taken interacting with them. Many photos were taken today by our group!
We first got to walk with a set of 14 month old cubs, a male and female set of twins (lions usually give birth to 4 cubs). At first they just wanted to run around and play with each other. We were lucky our group was the 6 of us and one other person. We got lots of time with them. Lions are not as soft as you would think. Our second encounter was with 7 month old female twin cubs. The cubs are fed meat every other day, the older ones receive about 8 kilos and the younger ones 4 kilos. Because lions have a slow digestive process they sleep for 20 hours.
LION TRIVIA: 1. Live an average of 13 years, females can live to be 15; males only 11-12 years.
2. Females are mature at 3 years, males at 4 years.
3. Front paws are larger than back paws and continue to grow until they die.
4. Cubs have spotted legs as a defense to camouflage in the wild. These disappear by age 3.
THE BEST DAY SO FAR!
We have returned to Johannesburg for the evening.