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  • Gemma Fottles

Stroking lions in Zambia: behind the picture

Zambia protects its animals and it was an honour to be able to visit the lion sanctuary in Zambia on my STWWS travel reporter trip. Also makes you ask, what is the experience like?
Taming Lions in Zambia

This picture has been shared by me many, many times since it was taken in Zambia around two years ago. I think it’s obvious why… the lion in question looks like he’s about to pounce on the photographer, whilst I look pretty content to stroke him out of his rage. I look like a lion tamer, and that suits me fine. In reality, however, that’s not really what happened.

He was midyawn.

I’ve shared my ultimate lion picture from my time in Zambia a million times, but I’ve never shared the calmer pictures behind it. This adolescent lion was seemingly unperturbed by the three or four tourists desperate to get a shot of it when visiting a sanctuary near Livingstone, and I still can’t actually quite believe that I have been THIS close to a lion! Such an amazing experience and well worth the visit.

! Of course its always very important to properly research any animal sanctuary you visit around the world and make sure they are doing the good they say they are doing.

Despite claims from friends, family and my boyfriend that this picture is in fact a fake, it is not. The explanation behind his angry face is pretty simple… he was mid-yawn. Yes, mid-yawn. What an anti-climatic reason… but… Yawning. Not an angry lion about to eat his carer in front of him before turning to the silly girl trying to tame him. Either way, I still love this picture, and his placid, yawning attitude only worked to steady my nerves at being this close to the so-called King of the Jungle. Those teeth are scary!

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