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Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 05:43 AM
  #41  
 
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Lynda,
I like your rose tinted glasses but I'm afraid I will always look for any 'glitch' when it comes to animals and their wellbeing. I would HATE myself if I inadvertently supported something which is not TOTALLY positive for the amimals. I think what makes me wary of the Lion Encounter is that they don't completely explain the process clearly making it ambiguous so jury's out until I hear more. I REALLY REALLY hope it is purely conservational and positive as, if it it, it is a FANTASTIC project. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

VeeR, I thire Dennis & Lynda - Please don't go back to lurking. This board (unlike another one I could mention but won't), very rarely gets heated and it is good to hear from everyone. It makes peoples decision making easier if they have all the facts and differing opinions so please stay!!

Imelda
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Old Sep 6th, 2006, 09:47 AM
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I just wanted to report back that I have received no response to my email. I have resent it in case they had an email glitch on their end.

VeeR: let me join the others in saying welcome to posting and please don't go back to lurking. This has been a very productive thread -- I've posted many that garner no reply so you are off to a hot start!

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Old Sep 14th, 2006, 01:49 PM
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Predator,
Just wondering if they ever got back to you?

Imelda
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Old Sep 15th, 2006, 11:11 AM
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:-? Me too.
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Old Sep 16th, 2006, 06:15 PM
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someone on tripadvisor.com went on the Lion Encounter and posted this:
"My hubby and I did a Lion Ecounter trip in May and it was fantastic.
Basicaly , you are collected from your hotel in Vic Falls or Livingstone driven to the lodge in a wildlife area just outside the town where you are given a pretty comprehensive safey briefing.
You then walk for 10 minutes or so through the bush when you stop and meet two or three staff members and the lions. The lions come to you and when I say come I mean they bound over with waggy tails and head rubbing. They greeted the staff first as they really love them , and then started wrapping themselves around the guests. Our two were lovely 14 month old little chaps , abut the size of an adult labrodor.
You go for a thirty minute walk through the bush with them. They are not on leashes or anything like that and they lead the way. They are all hand reared by humans from the age of three weeks so are incredibly affectionate . You are free to patt and stroke them. They stopped the guides several times for bear hugs , so sweet. At no time did we feel in any way unsafe , my husband said that it was like taking our spaniel for a walk.
The cubs taken out with guests range in age from about six months to about eighteen months . Before that they are too little and after that they start killing things! As well as our 2 brothers there were also 3 little sisters who go out with guests and 2 sweet little sisters about 3 months old in training. Apparently you can see them being bottle fed in the morning if you are there early enough.
It costs about $100 per person , you get a great big breakfast afterwards and can get a souvenir DVD of the walk . Woud highly recommend the latter , have watched and show ours dozens of time.
On no account miss this , I would probably rate it even higher than seeing the gorillas!"
still waiting to see if pred hears back from them, but for now, it seems like an incredible experience.
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Old Sep 17th, 2006, 09:34 AM
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It DOES sound incredible - thanks for posting that Dennis, I really must move Botswana and Zambia up sooner - can't wait!
You're going end of Oct right?
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Old Sep 17th, 2006, 09:41 AM
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Yes Lynda, leaving Hawaii on 10/25
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Old Sep 17th, 2006, 10:11 AM
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Of course itís an incredible experience for TOURISTS. Has anyone doubted that? Letís wait for Predator to come back with information about what itís like for LIONS.
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Old Sep 17th, 2006, 12:03 PM
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Sorry for the delay -- the proper contact was travelling and unavailable so I just received her response on Thursday while I was out of town.

What I did find out is thus far the program has not reintroduced any lions to the wild but two weeks ago they received approval from the Zambian government for their first reintroduction location so they are very excited and think that will help silence skeptics and justify their program.

Unfortunately I did not receive any information about if all lions move to the Phase II larger enclosures or if some who do not progress as hunters or show the proper desired genetic dispositions have a different path/fate. This question went unaddressed other than attached documents that are from their website and don't clearly cover this disposition question, however, it was suggested to me to arrange a phone call so we could have a clear conversation which I appreciate and will try to schedule for this week.

I definitely still have concerns that there seems to have been a fair number of lions bred over a length of time that seem to basically have been for toursim purposes -- there are indications that their Antelope Park facility has been doing this for close to 20 years I believe but perhaps with changing times they have changed their focus to a program that could have more conservation value. I also know that identifying reintroduction sites and obtaining government permits and such can be a very lengthy and frustrating process.

I hope I gain more clarity over the phone. I should disclose that a few months ago a Fodorite was looking to volunteer and was skeptical as well. I talked to her about these same kinds of questions which she asked the volunteer agency and came up with zero answers which is why I have been a skeptic, this could of course have been the agency being lazy and I am encouraged I have received a reply. With so many interested in this activity I would like to see good info available and I will update this when I know more.
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Old Sep 17th, 2006, 12:21 PM
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Thank you Pred!
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 03:53 AM
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Another BIG thank you Pred - Much appreciated you doing all the hard work in trying to get answers.

Imelda
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 07:16 AM
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Thankyou also from me, Predator, I do appreciate all of your work in trying to find out about this!

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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 12:35 PM
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Thanks from me too Pred.
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 01:05 PM
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Thanks for all the appreciation -- I'm happy to gather whatever info I can.
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 01:22 PM
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PredatorBiologist is the authority on this matter, no doubt, but I did come across this issue on another forum recently, as well as have a recent client who wanted more information on the Lion Walk.

As a result, I contacted someone from a very well respected animal rehabilitation center in South Africa to get her thoughts on the matter.

Here is her unedited response to me:

>>>>>>>>>>>Hi Rocco,

Just a quick comment on "lion parks" and "lion breeding projects" in Southern Africa:

Please do not assist your client in supporting any projects that allow her to have contact with lion cubs. They are always involved in the canned hunting industry on some level. They tell volunteers/guests stories of "genetic diversity", "mothers rejecting cubs" and "orphaned cubs", but they actually take the hours-old cubs away from their mothers so that the cubs can be used to make profit - posing for photos with unsuspecting tourists and being raised by paying volunteers. Once the cubs are too old to "play with", they get sold on auction where the only buyers are hunters. Reputable big cat facilities DO NOT allow breeding in captivity under any circumstances and do not allow volunteers/tourists to have contact with the animals to minimize human imprinting. Sadly, wildlife is big business and big money in Africa.

Please, please do not support these organizations, financially or otherwise. All those adorable cubs you touch and cuddle will be hunted or part of the breeding mill in several years.
I know it sounds wonderful to have contact with lion cubs, but is it really in the animal's best interest or in your client's best interest?

Most projects blatantly lie to the volunteers, but these are some of the questions you should be asking:
Why are they breeding and continuing the cycle of captivity?

Why take the newborn cubs away from their mothers causing immense stress to both mother and cub?

If each breeding female gives birth to approximately 10 cubs per year (3-4 per litter, 3.5 gestation period, lioness immediately goes into estrus when cub is taken away), what is the park doing with the hundreds of excess lions that are being created every year? (obviously selling on auction)

Lion parks try to wipe their hands clean by saying that they are not involved because they do not organize the hunts themselves. But they are involved in the breeding, sale and trade of lion which is the first link in the canned hunting chain.

They are creating the surplus. They are creating the market. Hunters would not have lions to buy at auction if the lion parks were not breeding and selling.

Okay, enough said on that topic! You can make your own decision at this point... I just wanted you to be informed! <<<<<<<<<<<

Again, I claim no expertise on this matter and I am not condemning any operators who promote the Pride Walk or whatever cute name has been coined for the walk with the lions. I am only sharing some inside information from someone whose expertise on the subject I trust.
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 02:06 PM
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Rocco,
Thanks for copying the unedited email response. This should be enough to avoid the Lion Encounter. Itís very valuable as itís not possible to find a single bad word about it using Google. I will be very interesting to hear about Predatorís phone call.
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 05:41 PM
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"What I did find out is thus far the program has not reintroduced any lions to the wild but two weeks ago they received approval from the Zambian government for their first reintroduction location so they are very excited and think that will help silence skeptics and justify their program".- Pred

I've no wish to condemn any genuine return of animals to the wild, nor is there 'canned' hunting of lions in Zambia. But does anybody else share my faint disquiet that this may be akin to delivering lambs to the slaughter? I guess it might depend on just where the 'reintroduction location' is.

John
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Old Sep 18th, 2006, 08:14 PM
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Rocco: thanks for the very informative post. My general view on such matters is the same as your rehabilitator contact which is why I was raising these issues. Because of all the interest in doing the activity and the claims of being for conservation I decided I should look for answers directly rather than give any advice based on my impressions from a far.

I hope to have more first hand info to pass along soon but until there are reintroductions that are substantiated I will be suspect that what Rocco posted is quite possibly the case here. To me there are better ways to repopulate lions than using a habituated breeding stock and the numbers in my mind also seem like a lion mill as those numbers add up fast with a very short tourist shelf life. On the ground rehabilitors in Southern Africa are going to know what goes on behind the scenes better than I will ever be able to learn from here.
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Old Sep 20th, 2006, 02:08 PM
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Thank you, Pred and Rocco for looking into this.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2006, 01:42 PM
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Here is my additional information.

Typically all lions move on to the breeding population -- I know they control the breeding so they must use contraceptive controls in their adult populations. This is important as they try to limit their cub production to 14 a year which I'm sure ties into their carrying capacity.

From time to time they do have the need to sell lions or exchange for other lions to keep their bloodlines diverse. The last time this was done was 3 years ago at which time lions were moved to South Africa, and due to the excessive number of breeders who use lions for canned hunting there, buyers/exchangers were screened through a conservation body (not sure who does this but will try and find out) and tagged so that they could be kept track of. There are no plans in the immediate future to sell/exchange any other lions.

This organization has a sister organization under same ownership (African Impact) that operates lots of volunteer opportunities. They are particularly active in Zimbabwe around Hwange. Snare removal and anti-poaching work seem to be their mainstay as well as some wildlife research so they do definitely provide some positive conservation efforts.

My impressions. Assuming I am receiving truthful answers (which I believe I am). I think they are conscientious care givers to their captive lions and I don't believe it is a lion mill for bad purposes.

I believe they are pursuing reintroduction efforts and really want that strategy to work. I also think they are going to have great difficulty finding sites and think they are overbreeding currently to keep the tourist activity alive -- my assumption could be wrong but the program has been around for 7 years I think, which seems like they have a lot of captive lion breeding stock and growing by the litter ready to produce cubs when they still haven't had a reintroduction. I just believe there are better ways to do reintroductions but that this way simply works well with tourism although of course tourism is also critical to fund this strategy. Typically captive breeding reintroductions is considered to be a last resort measure as mortality rates are extremely high not to mention all the breeding stock required makes it an expensive way to operate. If I was a land manager this would be a source of last resort -- I would make every effort to relocate wild lions from another area first which certainly does happen.

Personally I am going to wait and see what happens with the reintroduction strategy before I pass a final judgement. If the first reintroduction takes place and more sites are announced I could support this project. Until there are reintroductions though there are a lot of lions breeding new lions into a captive life without a higher purpose, and that concerns me.

I would urge anyone who does go to ask a lot of questions about reintroductions and about how many lions they have in captivity etc. Asking rehabilitors like Rocco did specifically about this project too would also be a good way to get the true skinny because they will probably know the true story. All I can do is pass on answers to questions that I'm sure they have dealt with constantly. Because they were forthcoming with me I am keeping an open mind to see what happens.
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