Should I or Shouldn’t I Pet that Cute Lion Cub? By Margrit Harris

“Would you like to visit the lion cubs?” Linda asked.

“Of course!” Was my immediate response. I had no inkling of the unfolding enigma.

Several months early I’d seen the Facebook post. Four tanned, smiling vacationers in Spain posing with an adorable young lion cub in their arms. Who wouldn’t love to cuddle one of these little wild things? Then I heard from Linda, a friend with the international advocacy organization ‘Campaign Against Canned Hunting’ (CACH.) “Little cubs like this are exploited terribly.” What?

CACH was on it. Come to find out this little one, along with another cub, were being held illegally. A rather charming woman had secured the cubs for her business. How many unsuspecting tourists were handing over cash for a cuddle?

Linda and her network from CACH jumped into action. I marveled at the passion, the dedication as folks rallied to rescue the lion cubs in Spain. Rescue you say? Yes, Linda tells me this happens far too often. Little lion cubs born taken from their mothers. They’re fed very little to keep them small and placid. You know, perfectly adorable… irresistible to cuddle.

I had no idea! Linda tells me there’s more. Once the cubs reach sexual maturity they become aggressive. They’re no longer useful for petting. How do you make money now? Sell it to be hunted. This is called canned hunting. The lion is in a fenced area. You get the picture? There’s no fair chase. The hunter pretty much sits in the vehicle and pulls the trigger. I realize, just how lucky these two cubs are!

After a bit of investigating and verifying irregularities, the little cubs are confiscated. Their new CACH caretakers name them George and Yame. However, all is not well. For one, they need a forever home… Hand-raised lions can’t be returned to the wild. Second, they are malnourished and need medical attention. Third, George appears to have impaired vision, probably from all the flash photography. You can just see the bills piling up right?

Then really bad news! No sanctuary in Europe has room for them! Lions live to be a good 25 years old. Taking them in requires a long-term commitment. I hadn’t thought about that either.

After several weeks a forever home is found. Kevin Richardson (known as ‘the lion whisperer’) is willing to take them. The downside… Kevin is in South Africa.

Getting two lion cubs from Spain to South Africa isn’t as simple as buying two airline tickets. The legalities are endless. The red tape immeasurable. The cost $25,000! We can’t help with much, but do scrounge together a few hundred dollars towards the airfare. Every penny is appreciated as the fund raising kicks into gear.

As dedicated humans are scurrying to get the logistics sorted, the cubs? Well, they’re growing, which means the measurements for transport crates (you guessed it) are constantly changing.

The happy day comes and the lion cubs, after a final vet check, are on the plane. On arrival at their new home their crates are opened with baited breath. Whew! They’re both fine and ready to explore their new home, a temporary enclosure with a couple of trees, fallen logs and grass clumps.

Fast forward about six months. Russ and I bounce along the rough bush road in our Landy. We’re off to see the cubs. How exciting is this?

With Kevin updating us on their progress we walk up to the enclosure. My they’ve grown! Mischievous eyes watch our approach. Kevin is pounced on. He rolls to the ground with two super-sized playful kittens. Is that purring?

What an honor to see the cubs, George and Yame. What a journey they’ve had. What dedication and commitment from so many to rescue them from a life of misery and early death.

I watch George and Yame playing with Kevin. I wonder about this seemingly innate draw we have to interact with wild things. What is this need to touch? To be photographed with? Then I realize my own delight. This thrill to be so close to these two lions… and I understand.

Then the reality hits. Because of this irresistible attraction to touch these two lions will never taste freedom… and that’s heartbreaking! Painful because there are hundreds of other cubs like George and Yame. Each doomed to a cruel, short life.

I shake of the ‘what if’s’. Kevin is now administering eyes drops to George. Lions are so majestic! So regal, yet so terribly vulnerable!

Although not the first experience to fling me into the wildlife conservation world, it surely is one that keeps me engaged. You know, during those “throw in the towel” moments that come when wrapped up in this work to save our planet.

About the Entry

  • Blogger name | Margrit Harris
  • Site name | Nikela
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  • Why should someone visit your site? Love adventure and helping? You’ll fall in love with our wildlife heroes, be amazed by the wild animals we see, and get some good laughs at our Land Rover living and mishaps.
  • Entry Number | 24

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