Sunday, May 18

Weekend Digression - Sleeping Lions

When I was a primary teacher there was one game that we used just before tea at our Christmas parties. It was the perfect game for calming down 70 children and 2 teachers after exciting (children's perspective) or frenetic (teachers' perspective) party games and dancing. The game was called Sleeping Lions. All the children would lay on the floor and would keep as still as possible - if they moved they were 'out'. After a good few minutes of 'not noticing' any movement the children were gradually wheedled out. The last 'lion' to wake up was the winner.

Some were very good at it and needed some 'encouragement' to finally move but none could outdo this lot.
On Thursday we had the day out at Yorkshire Wildlife Park and watched the lions sleeping.
These weren't just any lions - they hit the headlines in February 2010 when they were transported from Romania.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park was in its infancy - its most exotic resident was a llama - when it received a call from a zoo on Romania asking if they could take 13 African lions. The new director at the Romanian zoo felt that the lions needed to be kept in better conditions than they were in Romania and was trying to find a new home for them. As the park in Doncaster had no facilities or the expertise to care for big cats they had to turn the request down.
The director of the Yorkshire Wildlife Park offered to try and help advise on how the lions' living conditions could be improved and flew out to Romania with that aim.
When he arrived he was shocked by what he saw. Up to five lions were being housed in pens about 3m by 4m. The floor was concrete and the cage had iron bars and was cleaned out maybe once a month. He rang back to the park and informed the staff that they needed to prepare themselves to house and care for the thirteen lions - seven males and six females. He had agreed to rehome them in Dincaster.
After an appeal  the zoo raised enough to create purpose built enclosures for the lions which then, accompanied by a vet, were flown out from Romania in borrowed crates on a Boeing 737 passenger plane specially adapted for these extraordinary passengers.
Initially the lions were kept in a large purpose built lion house. They were in very poor condition, malnourished, had been inbred and had medical issues that needed resolving. 
On a nine acre site three large paddocks were ceated to house three groups of four or five lions. When the time came to 'release' the lions into the paddocks they were so conditioned to living in tiny spaces and had never felt grass beneath their feet that some took quite a bit of persuading out into the paddocks that had been prepared for them.

Since the rescue three of the male lions have died. The oldest of the lions died in 2012, at the age of 30, but did at least have a couple of years of improved living conditions.

A second lion died due to ill health in January of this year and a third in March this year after a fight amongst the lions in his pride. He shared a paddock with four females.
Lions are not very energetic animals and will sleep for up to 22 hours a day but like the children playing the party game they have to wake up for tea.

Although I would prefer that all wild animals lived in their natural habitat, if this isn't an option then there are worse places to live out their days than the Yorkshire Wildlife Park and these animals know that all too well.

21 comments:

  1. Well, that particular group of lions seems to have "fallen on its feet", so to speak. It is appalling how some people think that it is OK to keep lions in tiny concrete cages. If those lions didn't even know how to walk on grass, just imagine what they would think if they had to find their own food!

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    1. The oldest one had been kept like that for 28 years, Mark and they were fed on a diet of chicken carcasses - no red meat which is what they need.

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  2. What a story - so glad it all ended well for the poor lions - great pictures of them all lolling about - doing what lions do best.

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    1. It was nice to see them looking content, Elaine

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  3. They look so content! Glad the story had a happy ending.

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    1. At least even the oldest had two good years, Debbie

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  4. I really love this post! Great pictures!

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    1. Thank you Endah - we enjoyed the visit

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  5. Awww, fabulous photos, I think the third one is my favourite. They look just like pussy cats, you wouldn't think they could do much harm when you see them lolling about like that. I'm so pleased that there was a happy ending for them, sadly there's many more animals around the world that are kept in the same conditions that they were, a terrible thought.

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    1. The keeper said that they looked peaceful, Jo but if he went into the paddock he'd have a problem getting back out! Did you watch the TV programme of the rescue - the conditions were horrific. I think the park get a few animals that are unwanted or unhappy elsewhere. They are bringing a polar bear from Mexico as unsurprisingly it is suffering in the heat!

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    2. I did watch the programme, it was very hard seeing the lions in the appalling conditions they were kept in, but the rescue itself was really interesting.

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  6. Great photos, I laughed so much when I saw a lion sleeping on his back. My dog has the same pose right now, only difference is that he is snoring like crazy.

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    1. We weren't near enough to know whether they were snoring or not, Leanan.

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  7. A sad start for them but it turned out well in the end, lovely photos.

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    1. A very sad beginning - it was heartbreaking to see the conditions they were kept in when their story was told on TV.

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  8. It's great to know they have thrived in their new home Sue. I remember reading this in the newspaper at the time.
    Loved the photos Sue - beautiful beasts! Big cats are my favourite.

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    1. I love big cats too, Angie - at a safe distance. The tiger was magnificent - shall I share those photos too?

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  9. It always sickens me to hear how wild animals are kept in appalling conditions, so I'm really happy to hear of such a wonderful outcome for these lions.....what fantastic pictures, they certainly look happy and chilled and in great condition. What a shame to hear three died, but the rest are obviously having a ball! What a great job the park is doing. xxx

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    1. It's just a crying shame that they weren't rescued sooner, Snowbird.

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  10. What an interesting story. I loved the photos. I am going to have to play the sleeping lion game with my nieces.

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    1. It was my favourite party game Bonnie.

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