A man has died of his injuries after being attacked by white lions that had escaped from their enclosure at Lion Tree Top Lodge in Hoedspruit, South Africa.  His friend was seriously injured and remains in hospital. The escaped lions made their way from Lion Tree Top Lodge to the neighboring property, Ngama Lodge, where they attacked the two gentlemen – who are both employees of Ngama Lodge.

Tourists Playing with White Lions at Lion Tree Top Lodge
Tourists Playing with White Lions at Lion Tree Top Lodge
According to their website, Lion Tree Top Lodge raised the white lions to educate people about the plight of lions in the wild.  The website goes on to say: “Our facility will accommodate these animals for the rest of their lives. When the lions reach a certain age, guests will get to view the lions in their enclosure from a game drive vehicle”. Pictures on the website show tourists walking with white lions.

During a telephone discussion with Africa Geographic, West Mathewson, owner of Lion Tree Top Lodge, said that the lions escaped their enclosure by climbing a tree and jumping over the fence. He stressed that these lions are friendly and not aggressive and that he walks with them 3-4 hours per day.  According to Mr Mathewson the lions are now safely back in their enclosure at Lion Tree Tops Lodge.

SA Tourism have confirmed that they do not endorse nor support such activities with lions and wildlife.  Lion Tree Top Lodge have been warned about this, since they acquired their two lions as cubs.  Surrounding lodges are also using the services of Lion Tree Top to supply guests with lion walks. Including Cheetah Paw Eco Lodge, who also have been warned against the practice.

Now this whole thing stinks from start to finish.  The owner says he “wanted to educate people about wild lions” so he buys several cubs and turns them into pets for tourists. Hardly educational.  Then despite warnings from Tourism South Africa, he continues raising the cubs and having tourists pet them. Lions, whether hand-reared or not, are effectively wild animals.  That we continue to breed them for our own entertainment is a disgrace.

The plot with White Lions though thickens.  Originally they were found in Timbavati Game Reserve near Kruger National Park, until they mysteriously all disappeared.  For considerable period Rangers never knew what had happened to them.  A few years later and White Lions started reappearing, although not where you might expect.  Two turned up at the Mirage Resort in Las Vegas with Siegreied and Roy.  Others were offered to Hunters – For $50,000 you could shoot a White Lion Trophy.  Game Parks started using them in Tourist Adventures.  There is no doubt in my mind all these White Lions are from the ones originally stolen in Timbavati, although proving such a thing is all but impossible.

Now I love South Africa.  It has so many wonderful animals, landscapes and people.  But this whole Lion Tourism Industry sucks.  We shouldn’t be breeding them for pets, for tourists, for hunting or anything else.  They simply belong unmolested in the Wild.  The sooner South Africa shuts down all this Lion nonsense the better.

Lion Tree Top Lodge - playing with their Lions
Lion Tree Top Lodge – playing with their Lions