Custom Search

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Now here's a tail to tell the folks back home! Tourists given opportunity to walk rare lions... while holding their tails

By Mail Foreign Service Walking on the wild side: Joanne Mockford, left, and friends take the white lions for a stroll Looking relaxed despite holding on to a 16-stone rare white lion while walking through the South African bush, Joanne Mockford from Camberley, Surrey, even smiled gamely as one mighty male brushed past her. And these three white lions are special – with fewer than 100 surviving in the wild, friendly but endangered 15-month-old male, Mohlatsi and his two one-year-old females have been raised from birth to be comfortable in the presence of humans. Petite Joanne, 30, who now lives in Polokwane, Limpopo Province, South Africa, was taking part in what sounds like one of the most dangerous wildlife tours - walking with lions. Joanne, 30, who now lives in Polokwane, Limpopo Province, South Africa, was taking part in what looks like one of the most dangerous wildlife tours With fewer than 100 surviving in the wild, these lions have been raised from birth to be comfortable in the presence of humans 'The experience was completely overwhelming,' explained Joanne. 'We all got together early in the morning, I was very scared but excited. We walked slowly towards them and off we went through the bush. 'My heartbeat was insane - I even had to concentrate on breathing. I was just concentrating on where their mouths were. 'But the longer I was with them the more confident I felt.' Mohlatsi’s name means 'Lucky One' in the local dialect, which is fitting given that his wives are called Jay-Lo and Shakira. Japanese tourist Sachi Kamio poses with one of the endangered beasts South African tourist Michael Cocks holds onto a white-furred tail The three were raised in captivity by staff at Protea Hotel Ranch Resort 25km south of Polokwane, South Africa. The lions look the way they do because they each carry a rare gene, which causes their fur to be strikingly white, instead of the brown most people are familiar with. In the wild they were almost entirely killed off by poachers attracted by their rare white fur. Now their numbers are increasing thanks to breeding programmes like the one at Protea Hotel Ranch Resort. In fact Mohlatsi is so popular with visitors, staff and locals that he has his own facebook page, where he is called Mohlatsi Lucky-One. 'They have been trained since birth by some amazing staff at the ranch,' said Joanne. 'But we are told at the end of the day they are lions and you have to be aware of that. 'There’s no chance would I go near them at dinner time, or on my own. 'They were comfortable around people, but it was definitely better to keep them in sight than have one behind you.' White lions were only first officially recorded in 1938 in the South African region of Timbavati where they originate. Since this time they have been targeted by hunters for their rare fur, and less than 100 individuals are thought to survive worldwide. Joanne’s friends and family back home in the UK were shocked to hear that she had been walking with white lions in South Africa. 'My mum and step dad were so proud when I told them what I had done,' said Joanne. 'But they also think I must be barking mad, although they know I like a good challenge. 'I also put a memo on my Facebook and my friends couldn’t believe it, and said how jealous they were.' The Protea Hotel Ranch Resort is situated on 1,000 hectares of pristine grass and woodland, also included is a 150 bedroom 4-star hotel and golf course. As well as lions visitors can see giraffe, zebra, warthog, kudu, impala, wildebeest and the rare and endangered sable antelope. Eventually Jay-Lo and Shakira will become old enough to breed and if Mohlatsi is successful a new generation of white lions will be born at the resort’s lion park. source:dailymail


Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Powered by Blogger