This last Thursday we finally made it out to the Lion Park. I’ve wanted to go there forever! We went out with Julie, a past field studier who has returned to scout out PhD possibilities. She came with her two little girls, Joyce and Grace, some of the cutest kids on the planet. Dylan came along too, our fellow adventurer. The Lion Park was very cool. It is just a little place, privately run. They had two brown lionesses, three white lionesses, a white male, a cheetah, a white tiger, a normal Bengal tiger, a giraffe, a crocodile, some boks, lots of peacocks, some meerkats, rabbits, tortoises, and the high light of the journey – three nine week old lion cubs. The whole allure of the Lion Park is that you can pet lion cubs…and we got there and wandered around and weren’t seeing any lion cubs and it was kind of a bummer. I did commune with the tigers for a while and Dyl made friends with the meerkats. And then we wandered into a little café and there was a crib with what I thought were three little lambs – jokes, they were lion cubs! The sign said to stay away and not touch, but then a lady came out and told us we could sit in the crib one at a time and hold them, we had to sanitize our hands first. So I climbed right in and they kind of woke up and crawled on my lap. It was awesome! Emily and Joyce wandered over and found us and Holly, Julie, and Grace followed. We all took turns in the crib. The lion cubs were so adorable! They were all white lions with super blue eyes and curly fur. Two boys – Sampson and Gimpy and a girl, Bella.
We pumped the lady about them. She came out with three bottles of milk and took them one by one to feed them. So cute! She is the mother of the guy who owns the park. Him and his wife bought it nine years ago. They bred lions before that…it took them several years to breed white lions, but they have it down now, I think. The white lionesses can do two litters a year – even three, but they don’t want her to. They have to take the cubs away right away because the male will kill and eat the cubs, he is super jealous of the females. So they have to take them away and hand-rear them. That means feeding them five times a day – a special formula and also raw chicken and beef. For the first several weeks they also have to toilet them. Baby lions don’t know how to go to the bathroom! Their mother licks their bellies and this helps stimulate something, teaches them how to go to the bathroom…so when they are hand-reared, you have to rub their bellies until they learn how to go on their own! She seemed very fond of the cubs and said it was hard to see them go – they usually raise them until they are two or so and then sell them to other parks. People don’t want to buy them earlier because they are extremely susceptible to human germs and the mortality rate is higher…so people might speak for them, but not actually buy them until they are older. She said they are such smart animals and each cub has its own personality. She told us a story about a lion they sold to some place that breeds lions – her daughter in law went out to the farm once to do something and this lion saw her and totally remembered and recognized her and came running to say hello.
The lions are teething or something – the female in particular just wanted to chew on our shoes and jeans. After they were all fed they went back to napping. SO CUTE! Joyce and Grace each took a turn sitting on someone’s lap. Joyce was pretty nervous of them, didn’t want to touch or be touched by them. Grace totally went for it, petting their heads. Funny girls! We spent quite a while with the cubs…it would have been cool to interview the lady about relationships…but I didn’t bring any forms. I had originally planned to use the lion park in my study – but there is only her, her son and daughter in law and a couple other people who come on weekends. She had no experience/formal training with lions or raising lions, she said you just learned as you went. But her son had been into lion breeding – how does one get into that, I wonder!? Anyway, it would have been interesting, but I think I am good with what I have.
I wound up buying a purple apron that says EL Lion Park and has a lion on it. And then I also got this really cool peacock skirt – it was made by the wife of one of the neighboring farmers. It is a traditional wrap around skirt like lots of ladies here wear, it is really cool! I’ve wanted to find a cool, more traditional skirt, hurrah!