Walking with Lions, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe August 16th, 2013
We had the opportunity to spend some time with two 18 month old lion sister cubs just outside of Victoria Falls. Lion Encounter is a not for profit organization working to reintroduce lions back into the National Parks of Africa where the lion has become extinct. There main goal is to increase the overall population of wild lions in Africa.
In the 1940’s according to National Geographic the estimated population of lions was approximately 450,000. Today it is estimated that there are fewer than 20,000 animals in the wild.
We were somewhat cautious of being part of a lion program that could potentially sell the lions to a private game reserve that caters to hunters. We were assured that this was not the case by the information and video that we watched that this was about reintroducing lions into the wild through a 4 stage program. We were seeing the lions in stage one. In stages 2 and 3 they are part of a pride with no human contact. In stage 4 the off spring from the pride in stage 3 are released into the wild when they are old enough.
With that being said our experience with these lions was amazing. We spent about an hour and a half walking and hanging out with them. It is one thing to see a show on television about lions and it is another to see them up close. Later on in our trip we saw wild lions in Etosha Pan from the safety of our truck. Taking pictures while on the ground with lions allows you to get a lower perspective than if you are in a vehicle.
The pictures that Lyn and I took with our cameras were used later on for the watercolor painting at the top of this post. Often when I am preparing to do a more formal watercolor such as this one I will do a series of sketches to become more familiar with the details. One of the things that amazed me about lions was how there coloring blended perfectly into the surrounding bush. With this in mind I used a limited selection of colors to suggest this in the picture.
As amazing as this experience was I realize that this is somewhat controversial. Our next encounter with African animals would be on the Chobe River in Chobe National Park in North West Botswana.