How to Walk a Lion
I took a lion for a walk the other week. I know, read that again – I really did say I took a lion for a walk. Taking lions (and tigers – more about that in another post) for a spot of exercise is just one of the things we did when we pitched up in Kanchanaburi, at the doors of the Safari Volunteer Initiative as two of their more incompetent volunteers.
Walking a lion is just one of the tasks offered to volunteers. Take a look at their Facebook page for more information and photos about the animals at the Safari Park.
Say hi to Simba. He is going to be taken for a walk by Marie, Chlo and me.
Just taking a lion for a walk. Nothing unusual about that.
It doesn’t take long before the whole walk thing breaks down into a battle of wills. Simba spends most of the next hour rolling around on the floor, seeking attention, or going in the wrong direction. Walking lions is hard work. Who knew?
We try offering him French food.
Marie tries to get Simba to shift his arse along. Deirdre is going to be holding a bag of chicken and walking in front of a tiger soon and we need the lion out of the way. Tat and Ned, who run the Safari Volunteer Initiative, want the tiger focused on eating either chicken or Deirdre, and not on passing lions.
Tat comes along to lend a hand. Simba is now occupying the efforts of four out of the six volunteer staff at the safari park on this day. They could always use more help. If you are heading to Thailand here is some information about volunteering** to walk lions, among other things.
That’s my hand. Holding a lead with a lion on the other end!
Simba is actually a very nice and gentle lion. In fact he thinks he is a dog. While this dog thinks it is a lion.
Tat turns her back on Simba in an attempt to kick in his reflexive predatory instinct.
It works. Sadly Tat is dead now but it was worth it for the extra 20 metres we gained*.
It’s my turn to be bait. From being slightly nervous about letting a lion claw and chew on my feet I’m now actually very happy to have it chase me down the road, snapping at my heals. Anything to get it moving.
After the sad loss of two volunteers*, Chlo tries a bit of rope.
It works. Why didn’t we think of this before sacrificing the lives of two volunteers?
‘It was all a trick, wasn’t it?’ The surviving volunteers enjoy Simba’s pitiful noises as they give him a wash.
Fit volunteers are needed to create enrichment activities for the animals – including Simba – using power tools and imagination, fix or design existing and new enclosures, and teach English to the local staff members. Some of the tigers and leopards are hand reared and used to human contact, while most of the giraffes, deer and zebra are happy to be hand-fed.
Volunteers contribute towards their accommodation and food costs, with anything left over used for materials for enclosure upgrades, food for the animals and materials for projects.
Editor’s note: Safari Volunteers don’t seem to be operating at the moment but hopefully will be back in the future.
* No volunteers were harmed in the making of this photo feature.
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