A safari park in Europe is making international headlines because it is taking on a new approach to guests mingling with their lions. For visitors to the Taigan Safari Park in Crimea, the ‘walk with the lions’ experience comes at a price, and not just of the monetary kind.
People who pay to ‘enjoy’ the experience can choose to pet, feed, play, or even swim with lions. One woman recently tried to do this and she was mauled by a lion. Thankfully, she survived, but these incidents are 100 percent avoidable.
“Big cats such as lions and tigers should never be used as tourist attractions, particularly in activities where you can pet, feed, swim or play with them,” Thomas Pietsch, wildlife expert for Four Paws International, told The Dodo.
The park’s owner, Oleg Zubkov, shares videos petting the lions and engaging with them. He even smacked one of the big cats when a fight broke out. The viral video outraged animal lovers last year.
Fights can happen between lions, so having guests in with them is the worst thing this park can do. The stress of captivity, the lions’ generally reclusive nature, and the interruption of people engaging with them cause undue stress, according to Pietsch.
“As wild animals, they are dangerous and unpredictable and retain their wild instincts no matter how ‘tame’ they may appear,” Pietsch reported to The Dodo.
Four Paws hopes that spreading the word on how wrong this is for people to be up close and personal with lions will help stop it.