WATCH: Why it's never a good idea to let a lion climb into your safari vehicle

2018-09-06 18:00 -
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Lions, tame or wild, shouldn't really be allowed into your personal space.

In this video, a lion known as Filya more than crosses the line.

Filya can be seen cuddling with several tourists in a vehicle resembling a golf cart -  which is open on the sides and low enough to allow the lion to get up close and personal.

The Taigan safari Park in Bilohirsk, Crimea is popular for its close access to the lions. Bizarrely enough, the report states a woman was bitten at the same park about eight weeks earlier, by a different lion.

WATCH: Wildlife volunteer returns to SA to save the cub she raised from canned hunting  

In South Africa the issue of lion cub petting and walking has been a contentious issue for years - especially around canned hunting but also in relation to the risk it poses to the safety of tourists and staff who work at these facilities.

On 21 and 22 August, South Africa’s parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs hosted a two-day colloquium to review the unregulated captive-bred lion industry.

The event, Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting in South Africa: Harming or Promoting the Conservation Image of the Country, was open to the public and viewed as a possible road map to position SA as a leader in animal welfare and ethical wildlife tourism - if it were to ban captive lion breeding and phasing out captive-bred lion hunting in a managed way. 

PICS: 24 lions from SA starting new life in Mozambique's Zambezi Delta 

But what do the experts have to say about this predator interaction? 

"Not only is it completely irresponsible, but it is also very dangerous as there are significant risks involved with interacting with big cats," says Blood Lions producer Pippa Hankinson. 

"The conservation and welfare sectors have been expressing concerns about captive facilities offering tourist and volunteer predator activities for many years and for many reasons, including the fact that there are no adequate safety regulations in place to protect visitors and/or staff."

Hankinson pointed out that in a recent open letter to South Africa’s Minister of Environment, Dr Edna Malewa, shocking statistics on carnivores attacks over the last ten years were revealed. 

It shows that not all incidents are reported to authorities, but of those that were reported, "approximately 30% were fatal". See the full letter here.   

"Clearly the time has come to put an end to this industry which allows the public to interface with captive-bred predators, and which puts their lives at risk," says Hankinson.

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