Cape Town – The Lion Park in Johannesburg has announced that from 2016 it will no longer be offering guests the opportunity to interact with lion cubs.
The change will coincide with the park’s move to a new location in the Magaliesberg Mountains early next year, about 15-minutes' drive past its current location.
The Lion Park said that this comes after negative media coverage and ongoing campaigns by animal activist groups, who alleged that the petting of cubs is directly related to canned lion hunting.
“It is against the background of this negative media coverage and the ongoing campaigns against us by certain animal activist groups that the decision has been reached to cease the cub interaction and the breeding of lions at the new park,” Spokesperson for the park Scott Simpson said.
However, for the next few months, lion cub interaction is still available at the existing Lion Park.
Safety regulations after attack
Simpson said that while cub petting and lion walks will no longer be taking place, guests will still be able to walk with cheetahs and experience a range of other animal interactions.
The park made headline news earlier this year when Catherine Chappell, an American tourist, was mauled to death by a female lion during a self-drive safari. Both Chappell and her local guide had their windows rolled down despite various warnings to keep them closed at all times.
This fatal incident followed an attack on an Australian tourist in March this year, prompting the Lion Park to up their safety regulations.
READ: Should the lion in the Joburg Lion Park attack be put down?
“We now place adhesive strips over the windows of all self-drive vehicles that enter the park. While they all carry a warning in big red letters to keep windows closed at all times. It also helps to jam attempts to roll windows down,” Simpson explained.
So far the innovative safety regulation has been successful and welcomed by guests entering the park.
The lion involved in the attack has remained with her pride, however the enclosure they inhabit has been closed to self-drive vehicles.
While the tourist’s death has cast something of a shadow over the park, the imminent location move promises to bring new life.
Simpson explains that since the new site is much larger, they will have the opportunity to expand their activity offering to include more walks, hiking trails and even horseback safaris. Guests will also be able to overnight at separate tented accommodation at the park, similar to that currently available at the existing park.
Apart from guest activities, the Lion Park will continue conducting a variety of research projects and conservation efforts.
Two research projects currently in existence are focused on jackal and likkewaan species that inhabit the area.
"We will have a dedicated research centre at the new location and are really hoping to become something of a research hub for the Magaliesberg/Cradle of Humankind area,” Simpson explained.