Lion conservation is vital work. The king of the jungle is not invincible. Sadly the lion is in grave danger across Africa and it’s man who is causing the damage. Fortunately the opportunity exists to help try to redress the balance and a lion walk is just one of the benefits.
Figures tell us that lion population in Africa has dropped from something in the region of 200,000 in 1975 to less than 40,000 today. That’s a huge decline in just thirty years. When you see pictures on the TV of a pack of lions bring down a Wildebeast it’s difficult to think of them as “vulnerable” isn’t it? But that is the official listing.
So what can be done? And what’s this about lions walks?
One exciting program in Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa is run by the African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT), a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the African lion. They rehabilitate lions, using both rescued and those originally captive bred, to breed “wild” offspring for release into the relatively safe surroundings of some of Africa’s national parks. The breeding program is highly monitored for correct welfare and animal husbandry and has received many accolades.
Of course there is never enough money for this kind of work. Luckily, there are volunteer placements available and many people from all over the world take what could be described as working vacations in order to do their bit. One of the spin-offs is the lion walk, taking daily exercise with these magnificent beasts as they learn to hunt. Whilst full-grown adults aren’t part of the deal, these are far more than just cubs!
African lion conservation volunteers do much more than just have a stroll in the bush though. The proper care of these animals is paramount but there’s also a lot of work to do to teach local tribes people about the program. The last thing that ALERT want is to release a young lion back into the wild only to have it trapped or killed by a well-meaning but misinformed local Zulu warrior.
So education support is an important part of the lion volunteer’s task. There’s also important data-checking and record-keeping to be done so it’s not all cuddling cubs. On the other hand, lion conservation volunteers do get time off to go bungee jumping off Victoria Falls or white water rafting on the Zambezi!
The fact is that volunteering to help rehabilitate African lions has tremendous rewards – not least the lion walk – but it’s also hard work from time to time. It’s not a vacation for the lazy or those that are afraid to get their hands dirty. Sure you could just go lie on a beach for a month for the same money, but for those that love wildlife and want what they do to have real impact and real long-lasting value might want to investigate what could become the adventure of a lifetime.