Here Kitty: 280-Pound Lion Climbs Into A Tour Buggy
Graeme Peto, Open Jaw
Part of the appeal of taking a safari is getting up-close with rare wildlife, preferably in their natural habitat. As well as the thrill of seeing majestic creatures, there’s a tantalizing hint of danger. Reputable companies ensure there’s no more than a hint.
At less reputable operations, however, safety standards are potentially lacking. A group of tourists found that out when a lion jumped into their tour buggy at the Taigan Safari Park in Russian-annexed Crimea. (As an aside, Crimea is not noted for its safari opportunities.)
The tour buggy had no doors, giving the king of the jungle easy access to the potential human buffet inside.
Luckily, the two-year-old kitty, Filya, was in a friendly mood. You never know with cats. Like a 280 lb. house pet, Filya climbed across tourists’ laps and gave a woman's face a little lick. The buggy's driver (and park owner) Oleg Zubkov eventually shooed her away after a few pats on the head.
Such encounters don’t always end happily at the Taigan Safari Park. Reports say the same lion had actually attacked a tipsy Russian tourist two weeks prior, by biting her arm. The incident occurred after the tourist had tried to ruffle the lion's mane. (Hello!)
Park owner Zubkov claims to have a “remarkable track record” in taming the cats and insists that guests would remain safe if they only followed his safety instructions when getting close to the animals. (Doors on the buggy would probably help too.)