Humans are curious animals--and nothing stokes that curiosity like the other animals we share the planet with. Unfortunately, facilitating the close encounters we crave often results in those animals being deprived of freedom.
Enter the Orana Wildlife Park's Lion Encounter, in New Zealand, which cages the human visitors rather than the wildlife.
Not that this set-up is entirely conflict-free. "This appears to present a positive change away from the traditional arrangement of animals in cages being surrounded by visitors," Chris Draper, programs manager at Born Free Foundation, told The Dodo. "However, is the lion enclosure any bigger or better than in any other zoo or wildlife park? This set-up might improve the view of the cats for the visitors, but the benefits to the lions are unclear. Does this experience turn visitors into passionate conservationists, or is it just a cheap thrill? Fundamentally, this is a captive facility and these lions will never be released to the wild: They deserve the very best in terms of animal welfare, but let's not lose sight of the need to focus on keeping big cats where they belong — in the wild."
According to Nathan Hawke, PR manager for Orana Wildlife Park, the lions are kept in a 7600-meter reserve and approach the human visitors--or not--entirely by their own choice. Trained staff accompany the tourist groups and provide feedings (undoubtedly to make human guests less tempting "snacks.")
What do you think of this set-up? Watch the video below to see it in action!
WATCH THE VIDEO HERE: