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The lions that we walk with at the Masuwe Estate (in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe) are all captive bred and have been raised by our teams of experienced staff. Lions that are bred at our breeding sites stay with their mothers until 3 weeks old. After this, the cubs meet their human families and continue to be raised by Lion Encounter staff. This way we can start to take the cubs for their daily walks in the bush which provides them with the experiences they need to prepare them for their future.
We walk lion cubs as part of the first stage of our conservation program. It is through these lion walks that young cubs are exposed to their natural environment and are provided with ample opportunity to learn and develop – just like any wild-born cub. This means that they often come across wildlife and game whilst on their walks, and the walks allow them the opportunity to practice hunting and stalking. Occasionally our cubs will be successful and our program has seen our walking lions kill giraffe, wildebeest, bushbuck, buffalo, baboon and impala amongst other wildlife. The full conservation project consists of 3 or 4 stages. This staged program has been designed to take many factors into consideration, as animal reintroduction is a very delicate procedure – and lions are no exception.
As all of our activities are operated for the purposes of our conservation program, we do not always have very small, young cubs on site. Keeping cute baby lion cubs to pull in the tourists is definitely not what we’re about! This is also why we do not have other species on site either, such as cheetahs or white lions; they are not part of our conservation project. Whilst we understand that guests may enjoy the experience of meeting them, we are a conservation project first.
The lion cubs we walk with are trained only to the point that is safe to walk them with humans. They do not “sit”, “roll over” or any other things your pet dog or cat may do!
They do however, play, explore, discover, learn and are absolutely fantastic to watch. Just like us, they have different personalities, characters, likes and dislikes and to spend time with them as a volunteer or a guest on one of our lion walks will truly give you a glimpse into our young cubs’ lives, as they continue their journey through our ground-breaking conservation program.
You can find out more about the cubs that we’re currently walking by visiting the ‘Our Walking Lions’ page.
As mentioned above, the first stage of our program consists of taking the young lions for walks in the bush. This gives them the opportunity to spend time within a lions’ natural surroundings. During this process data is collected on various topics such as dominance, hunting, and social and character traits. All this information is collated and analysed. Using this information, plus others such as family heritage, genetics, compatibility etc, the project chooses lions to put together into a suitable lion pride. This lion pride is released into a fenced off secure game reserve, where there is game for them to hunt. This pride is also provided with scavenge feeds (carcass’s placed into the area) to teach the lions a vital lesson in scavenging.
We currently have two release prides, both of which have produced offspring that do not come into contact with humans. Our pride at Antelope Park in Zimbabwe (named the ‘Ngamo Pride’) and the ‘Dambwa Pride’ in Livingstone, are monitored by our research teams as they learn to live as a pride adapting to catching and finding their own food, bonding socially, and depending on each other – not us!