A couple of months ago I purchased a Grab one deal to go and visit the Zion Wildlife Gardens doing the "Enrichment Tour". The young'ins had already been there with their Aunty a couple of years ago...but Hubsta and I had never been so we ditched them and made it a date.
When it first opened we had watched eagerly along with New Zealand when the "Lion Man" made his TV debut... but since then the whole place had been in the news for the wrong reasons with troubles with management and the mauling of one its keepers Dalu. However in recent years someone new has taken over and have they are trying hard to make it work.
I have always had reservations about the whole place. Is it right to bring animals native to a place like Africa to a completely new environment like NZ? It is right to then have them caged in enclosures? I decided to go with an open mind and just explore an attraction of my home town with my new camera in hand.
The first thing you notice is the lovely rolling meadows on the drive out there. A 10 minute drive out of town takes you on a peaceful country drive...reminding me that I really need to do get out of the city and drive out in the country more often.
A description of the 90 minute "Enrichment tour"
"You've probably seen cats do a lot of interesting things. But you've probably never seen a big cat play tug of war or slurp an ice block on a hot summer's day. The enrichment programme is all about making things interesting for the animals – and interesting for you to watch too. By varying their food and giving them different objects to play with, the cats are stimulated, curious and alert. It means that when you go to see them on this tour, you'll be seeing them at play and exhibiting different behaviour."
♥ Just the two of us ♥
The day we went was a touchy day for weather. Gale force winds and rain were predicted...but we had our brolly ready.
The first cat we saw the the Mandla the black Leopard. The sunlight would bound of her coat and reveal her spots. The keepers had put some rabbit meat in her enclosure and she had to find it.
Throwing in a special ball for them to play with.
Interestingly all of the keepers are chicks!
They reckon the female keepers have a calming effect on the animals. Interesting!
There was this one moment when one of the cats let out a roar and she didn't even flinch.
They have a real hands off policy preferring to stay out of the enclosures for safety reasons obviously except for with the cheetahs. And you can do a "feed the cheetahs" tour...I think I'll pass!
Hard trying to get good shots through the fencing.
Here is some footage of the park I filmed that lets your hear what we we heard!
Amazing roars...our favourite part of the tour.
There are 34 big cats all up. And all were amazing to see. It was especially cool recognizing the names and animals of the animals we had heard from the programme. My favourite was ZION. As you can see from the video clip....such a powerful sound!
The owners have big plans for the park...and have some plans drawn up that have enclosures that are more like their home environment. See here.
All in all definitely worth checking out and supporting. http://www.kingdomofzion.co.nz/