OK – so let me be honest right up front. This post is in no way related to architecture or building, rather about achieving a life goal.
Still in Africa – currently at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe – I had booked in for a tour to walk with lions. Really? Yep, really. Walking…with LIONS!! No chains, no collars, lions that were free to rip my face off at any point!!
To be so close to them and to pat them has always been life goal for me. As many of you know, I am a tragic cat-lover. In my later years, I will probably end up like the cat lady from The Simpsons! But to see these beautiful, strong, majestic creatures up close was truly a privilege.
It was all made possible by a group called the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) who are trying to improve and increase the ever-dwindling population of lions in Africa. Figures from the IUCN show a 43% decrease n lion populations in the past 21 years (up to 2014) with only around 20,00 remaining in the wild. They are vulnerable to loss of habitat, conflict with humans, hunting, disease and inbreeding as the population gets smaller.
The lions I walked with were brother (Pax) and sister (Penga) and were about 20 months old. The plan is to release the pride into a protected area with no human contact in the next 12 months where they can live freely. Beyond that, they will then be released into the open plains a few years down the track when they are ready. That is, if the Zimbabwean Government get behind the programme again. Unfortunately support for their work has dropped since the recent change of government, so the timing of their future remains in limbo.
It is important to note that there are some disreputable companies in South Africa that allow tourist interaction with lions, only to release them later into game parks for hunters to shoot. Disgusting. I did my research and made sure that the tour I went on was not with one of those organisations.