Lions surround you in this 360-degree enclosure
For those who have the mettle to come face-to-face with a lion, an Australian zoo is opening an enclosure — except the humans are inside.
An experience called Lions 360 is opening at Monarto Zoo in South Australia. It’s a caged enclosure that allows visitors to walk right into the middle of the animals’ ten hectare habitat.
Despite the proximity, the experience is an “absolutely safe encounter,” giving visitors “a prey’s-eye view into the world of these awe-inspiring predators,” according to a description on the Lions 360 website.
Opening from Nov. 18, the experience lasts 60 minutes and costs A$60 (US$45) for adults, with an extra cost to feed the lions as well. The lions are able to climb on top of the enclosure, and can be fed by zoo staff through the cages.
But the concept hasn’t thrilled everyone. World Animal Protection, an animal welfare organisation which campaigns against their use for entertainment, said Lions 360 “normalises unnaturally close interactions with lions.”
“These are wild animals — not entertainers or photo props to be fed for a fee,” World Animal Protection’s Senior Campaign Manager, Ben Pearson, said in a statement.
“Wild animals belong in the wild as it is not possible to meet all their needs in captivity. Captivity limits opportunities for animals to express their natural behaviour and puts their physiological and psychological well-being at risk.”
The organisation said it’s “disappointing that state and federal funding was provided for this enclosure.”
The total cost of the project was A$1.4 million, with the South Australian Government contributing A$360,000, and the Commonwealth Tourism Demand Driver Infrastructure program A$350,000. Zoos South Australia contributed the remainder with A$720,000.
Zoos South Australia’s Director of Life Sciences, Peter Clark, said that Lions 360 is about “reversing the traditional zoo experience.” Animals can roam, while humans are kept in the enclosure.
“This project is the first of its kind in Australia and has been developed with modern animal welfare science in mind,” Clark said.
“With ten hectares to roam, the development is predicated on choice and allows the lions to exercise control and choice over their environment. We have staff with years of experience in delivering the highest standards of animal care, based on the most up-to-date animal welfare science.”
In addition, Clark said Lions 360 will help continue the zoo’s work as a conservation charity and in raising awareness for the species. There are fewer than 20,000 African lions left in the wild, according to the IUCN.
“When a person has the opportunity to see or engage with an animal, they develop a greater relationship with and understanding of that animal and in turn are more likely to take action to help with the conservation of their wild cousins,” he added.
“Lions 360 gives us a powerful platform to talk about the conservation of African lions.”
At the end of the day, we’ll have to wait and see what each visitor will gain from this sort of experience until it’s opened. The hope is that they’re inspired to do more for these endangered animals. The opposite, is a much more darker thing to ponder.