Yesterday, I visited the Lion’s Park in the outskirts of Johannesburg. Approximately 30 minutes drive (most of it on a road called Malinbongwe Drive).
The experience was both eye popping and exhilarating.
It was closest I have seen and been with wild beasts in their natural habitat – and except I decide a PhD in the science of wild mammals that may the closest I will ever be to wild beasts in their natural habitat.
At the lion’s park the environment was as close to the wild as possible – the animals were set up in camps with gates and wire fencing around each camp and free roaming as would have been possible in a jungle is restricted to the camps. Also restricted or totally impossible is the usual territorial wars amongst lions and the subsequent mass murder of the losers offsprings (the new lord usually does not want to have anything to do with the defeated lion except for his wives (lioness) which are the only spoils besides the jungle that the new lord takes on as part of the benefits of war- something about the Lion’s pride) thus the life expectancy of the Lions in the park is higher than that of a typical lion in the Jungle – I was introduced to a 19 year old Lion (forgive me, I have forgotten his name).
Many things came to live for me.
- The ‘regalness’ of the King of the Jungle;
- The stupidity of the Ostrich (whose eyeballs are bigger than its brain) and;
- Role reversal of conception and delivery of offsprings in some birds and mammals – forgive again if I should have learnt those in my biology classes amongst others!
The lion’s park strikes me as some tourist attraction like many others like it around (Rhino and Lion Park, Craddle of Humanity, Kruger National Park etc) contributing in many ways to the economy of south Africa.
Even if some of those sites were naturally occurring, like our Olumo rock, the Ikogosi Springs and it is clear that their preservation were deliberate.
My home country does not lack natural occuring sites (the Olumo Rock,Ikogosi spring), heritage sites (Osun groove) and jungles that can be set up as parks – (until the churches came, the Lagos Ibadan express road was fenced on both sides by jungle). But we perhaps are not interested in the multiple soci-economic opportunities deliberately developing these can bring to us, we are too blinded by our love of the liquid gold.
For me yesterday was another eye opener!
I was at the University Ibadan Zoo in 2005 – mention the word zoo in Nigeria and those of us born n the 80s think about the UI zoo, that is the only thing we know as Zoo – and most of the animals were either dead or have absolutely lost hope in life. There were more plaques in memory of great animals that once made the zoo thick and in some cases stuffed remains of such animals than were real animals.