First we went off and met the elephants, they are so BIG! We were allowed to ride them, but I didn’t trust the younger elephants so I picked Amai, the oldest girl.
The handlers gave me treats to give her and she kept wanting more even after she’d done what she was being rewarded for! Good thing she's too old to have tantrums.
Next we went and looked at all the enclosed older lions. The first we met was Big Boy and he was NOT happy to see us! Then we went to another enclosure and there was a large female who was also growling up a storm. I'm definitely rethinking this whole working with lions thing.
A car rolled up and it was the handlers bringing huge pieces of meat-that still looked like the animals they came from- as the animals were about to be fed. The meat is often old and it smelled like it. A big lion got REALLY aggressive when a guide was near his gate because he thought the guide was a threat, like anybody wants that stinky meat!
I guess the Antelope Park folks figured they would show us the scarier animals first, because then got to meet some younger, milder animals. They saw us walking up to their cage and this was the first time I saw what STALKING looked like. They were all low to the ground, not sitting comfortably-because their hind legs looked like they were about to pounce-all in a row watching us REALLY intently.
Once we came up and they realized we weren’t lunch, they were really curious, they rubbed their faces against the fence, which is their way of introducing themselves. One got very well-acquainted with a volunteer's camera!
The food here is pretty good, here's my lunch. I don't intend to eat this much every day, but this may be the best food I've had on any of the projects, I need to take advantage of it.
Everyone here is really friendly, they have funny names. So far, I’ve met a Blessing, Fortunate, Trust, Jealous, Beauty, and a Patience. Trust is the cook, and he told me he’s very happy to have me…and very happy to have beaten me in soccer (Zimbabwe played Liberia yesterday). It was the nicest trash talk I think I’ve ever been on the receiving end of.
A couple volunteers and I went on our first evening lion walk and the cubs came up and occasionally greeted volunteers by rubbing their cheeks on their legs. This kind of introduction does two things:
a-it leaves the lion's scent on you so they recognize you next time they meet you
b-it shows trust because this motion exposes the neck, which is the most vulnerable part of the body
Aside from the occasional intro (none to me, by the way) the lions didn’t care too much about us and mostly played alone.
A handler was playing with one of the cubs and she went to grab what he was holding and these MASSIVE claws came out! Now the safety instructions suddenly make sense. The guide explained that though they’re small, cubs have large retractible claws that act like a hook and once a lion pulls, your flesh comes off. Also, the claws have a fair amount of dirt under them and in the off chance you do get scratched, you’re highly susceptible to infection. Long sleeves and jeans are sounding like a good idea.
We came home to a beautiful sunset and then had another hearty meal.
Mike hadn't arrived yet, and after dinner I saw an email from him saying he couldn't find the person who was to meet him, so I am a bit nervous. Ok bedtime, it is 11:26pm, we have to be up at 6:30, and as I said, I was really tired today.