I bothered some sleeping lions
OK, no need to call the RSPCA, I paid for it, ok? Also, no need to be worried about my wellbeing - they were only four months old. But there were four of them. (Which means I can now tick "playing with lion cubs" off my bucket list. )
You've probably seen some disturbing images recently which would justify your potentially negative reaction to seeing the words 'paid for' and 'lions' in the same sentence - and I don't blame you.
These lions however were safe, well looked after and hopefully not destined for premature death at the hands of moneyed overseas tourists (google 'canned hunt'). They are safe for now. But in the next few months they will be transferred from their current location at Zebula, north of Pretoria in South Africa, to other game reserves across the country. I'm just hoping these are proper game reserves.
The three males and one female slept under a rock in the 40-degree heat. There were huge paws everywhere. Heaven.
The cubs were already quite big and strong despite the young age. The ranger who looked after them told me that within the next couple of months they would become too dangerous to play with people. (They devour almost 2 kilograms of meat per day each - no wonder they've been growing like mad.)
It was a lovely experience - their fur is wiry and the paws super delicate. They purred and - just like domestic cats - loved having their bellies and ears scratched. Yet, somewhere at the back of my mind, I kept thinking about South African canned hunts, and the disturbing stats about quickly diminishing numbers of those animals in the wild.
I never found out how the cubs ended up in Zebula and why. But I do hope they get to enjoy relative freedom wherever they end up going next.