Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh My! (March 2, 2015)

Lions and tigers and bears oh my!  Well maybe not bears but plenty of lions and tigers. We had the privilege of going with the Welkom district for an activity to the Boskoppie Lion and Tiger Reserve near Kroonstad,We have been working with the Welkom and Kroonstad Elders for most of the last year so when they decided to go to the lion park for a district activity it was only natural for us to go along. 

We stayed at the Arcadia Bed and Breakfast on Sunday and met the Elders at the Shell station in town.  We caravanned in a group with Elder Belnap in the lead.  It was a good thing we had someone to follow.  We had tried two times before to get to the park but we had never even got close, as we discovered when we headed out.

Shortly after arriving and checking in, the fun began.  The ten of us divided into two groups.  Our group went into the enclosure with the three month old lion and tiger cubs and the other group went in with the four month old lion cubs.  

The young cubs seemed to be a bit tired and not to sure of these strangers.  The Tigers loved to be petted and scratched but the lions would spit at us if we made any sudden movements. Slow and patient was the only way to approach them.  We enjoyed looking at the cubs and hearing them purr as we rubbed and scratched their backs or as they wondered around their enclosure.

After awhile we traded places with the other group and went in the enclosure with the four month old lion cubs.  One month sure makes a difference in how active lions are. These Cubs were much larger and a lot more active. Of course the last group of missionaries had done a good job of getting them excited and pretty worked up. When we entered the enclosure we became fresh game.   The cubs loved to stalk up behind us and bite and paw at our ankles. They loved to grab onto the chew toys and fight us for them.  When we set on the rocks the Cubs often came up and crawled over us chewing and biting out our hair and clothes .  Occasionally they got a bit too aggressive and we had to push them away. One time as I was sitting on a log one of the young cubs came up and grabbed my arm.  It startled me and I jerked my arm out of his mouth.  One of his teeth caught my skin and the end results was a scratch deep enough to leave a bit of a scar and bruises on the other side, but that was great. We sent home pictures and most of our grandsons thought it was so cool.  How often can you brag that your grandma had been mauled by a lion and lived to tell about it.  Of course it wasn't really that bad but it makes a great story.  In the years to come it will probably be an even bigger and better.

These little cubs were in a cage right by the our month old cubs.  We did not go in to see them and I am not sure how old they were but they sure were cute to look at.

These little cubs were the smallest yet.  As we walked back towards the entrance of the park we saw a tub that was partly cover with a cloth.  We were told to be very quiet and just peek in.  This is what we saw.  

Next we saw a mating pair of white tigers.  They were amazingly beautiful and very large.  Our guide informed us that even though both mother and father are white they could produce either white or orange tiger cubs. They are not true albino tigers but are white tigers.

We walked on a ways past the white tigers and came two large areas where tigers and lions of various ages were kept in different enclosures.  When the Tigers and lion are just a few years old they can be kept together but as they become old enough to breed they are separated out.  They do not want the lions to form family groups.  If they form prides then an alpha male will emerge and the younger males are forced out or killed.  These lions were pacing back and forth waiting for the truck that was loaded with dead chickens.  They are fed twice a week and then on occasion a special treat of chicken is given.  We came on the right day to see the excitement of feeding time.

The men drove the truck right into the enclosure with the lions and started throwing dead chickens in every direction.  The lions and tiger attacked the birds as if they had not eaten in a very long time but looking at them made me sure they were well fed and probably just being very greedy.  They fought for chickens that another lion had when there were plenty of chickens for all of them.  

Things settled down a bit as the lions started devouring their food, so we took pictures.  This is an amazing group of missionaries as have been all the groups that we have worked with.  We feel it a great honor and privilege to work with the    missionaries.  They are truly amazing young men with tremendous testimonies and talents.  They teach us so much and rescue us when we are lost or do not know where the members live.  They help us with our seminary and institute responsibilities and keep us busy and young. 

This lion was by far the biggest and most fierce lion of them all.  The guide said if they allowed this lion to stay with the other lions he would for sure become the alpha male.  They do not allow this because if the lions form a pride the alpha lion would either kill the other lions or chase them off,  They just keep the lions separate in controlled groups.  There were a few time this lion charged if someone got a bit to close to his enclosure,  This only one of this males lionesses.  He will be allowed to produce many cubs.

There are a few other animals at the compound,  This is the resident leopard.  He is a very beautiful animal.  I do not get tired of seeing all these different animals.  I am grateful to my mother for teaching me an appreciation for God's creations.  I have enjoyed getting up close and personal with so many of the African animals since I have been her.  Elder Edington enjoys them almost as much as I do,  

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