By The Canadian Press - Thursday, January 3, 2013 - 0 Comments
CALGARY – No longer do Calgarians have to wonder where their new lions are….
CALGARY – No longer do Calgarians have to wonder where their new lions are.
Five months after arriving from a U.S. zoo, the public finally got to see two-year-old male African lions Baruti and Aslan on Thursday.
The two leonines stepped out into their enclosure, then galloped over to hunks of red meat.
The snow and cold didn’t seem to bother them, nor did the people watching them.
The lions were born in September 2010 at the Smithsonian National Zoo.
Jamie Dorgan, area curator for the Calgary Zoo, says Baruti and Aslan are settling well into their new home.
“We are excited for visitors to have an opportunity to finally meet our new additions to the African Savannah,” Dorgan said in a news release.
“These two boys have very high genetic value in the captive population.”
He says they are of the subspecies krugeri (Panthera leo krugeri) and since their parents are directly from South Africa they are considered founders in the Species Survival Program and North American population.
The lions are also getting acquainted with their new roommates, female lions Tisha and Mbira.
However, the females are 17, and Dorgan says there are no plans to breed them.
African lions are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Big cat expert Dave Salmoni on living with ‘problem lions,’ rehabilitating them, and how to fend off an attack if one has you in its jaws
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 11:40 AM - 6 Comments
A conversation with Jonathon Gatehouse
Dave Salmoni is a Canadian who has found international fame as the hands-on host of shows about animal attacks and rogue predators for the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. For his latest project—Into the Pride—he spent six months living with a group of “problem lions” in the African bush. The show has its Canadian premiere Oct. 12 on Animal Planet.
Q: How does a kid from Sarnia, Ont., end up as a large-predator expert?
A: Mostly by mistake. Animals were always an interest. I was one of those kids, when I had to give a speech or do a project, it was always about animals. But I grew up in a pretty standard home on a cul-de-sac, not the circus, so I never thought of it as a career. When I went to university at Laurentian, I chose biology because I was still interested in animals. The biology department there was small enough that you actually got to do stuff—go out into the wild and interact with nature. I did my undergraduate thesis on black bears. But toward the end of my degree, I noticed that I was spending a lot more time on my laptop than with animals. So I thought I could go to a zoo and have the best of both worlds—the research and working with animals. I went to the Bowmanville zoo as a researcher, although I mostly got hired because I was a big, 220-lb. bouncer guy and the owner thought I could pick up a lot of s–t. As a small zoo, most of their money comes from animal training. And I really bought into that.
Q: For the new show you spent six months living with a pride of problem lions on a private Namibian game reserve. What made these guys rogues exactly?
A: These guys were born in the wild, in a national park that is saturated with lions. And with the poverty in Namibia they don’t have the kind of fences needed to keep them in. Unfortunately, on the outskirts of this park there are a lot of small villages and cattle farmers. These animals were escaping or being pushed out of the park and becoming cattle raiders, potential man-eaters. The management technique in Namibia is to kill the problem lions so there isn’t a war between the villagers and the animals. But there’s a gentleman there who owns a 75,000 hectare reserve and he wanted lions. I was doing a show, Rogue Nature, where we helped with the relocation of the lions to this guy’s park. A year later he calls me up and says, “Dude, you said these guys would calm down and they haven’t. They’re going to kill my staff.” And that spawned this project.
Q: You trained for months at the gym and worked with lions in preparation for a possible attack. How does one fight off a lion?
A: Basically, I looked at a lot of film with my personal trainer and showed him how a lion would attack me, and asked him to help me build those muscles. He trains army guys and firefighters and policemen, so he got it—that if we screwed up in the gym, I might die. He took it as seriously as I did. I barfed every single time I worked out with him. And when I worked at Bowmanville—the owner is one of the best cat trainers in the world—he put me in situations to teach me how to fend off an attack; how to gag a lion with a wooden crook and stop them coming forward, or if they are on top of you, the little skin fold in their lip where you can put your finger, and stop them from biting you. Over the years now, I’ve probably had a few hundred fights with captive lions, or good play wrestling, where you practise that gag, or block their teeth and learn the techniques.
Q: But what specific exercises can you do in the gym?
A: All of my stuff is compound movement—training your core, and for power in your legs. Reverse lunges, twists, squats and presses. Three or four different movements in a row. And pushing yourself mentally, so that you can tell your body when it’s exhausted that there’s more in there. I’d be on the ground, ready to pass out, and he’d say, okay, 50 push-ups. In a fight with a lion all I want to do is stay alive. I’m training for survival, buying seconds. I always go into the bush with a safety crew, and a paramedic. They all have things they are going to do in the case of an attack.
Q: And you’ve been attacked before?
A: Yes, right here in Toronto.
Q: What happened?
A: I was in my first year of lion training and doing a live show at Canada’s Wonderland. The lion was getting possessive over something and I was challenging him, letting him charge and then rewarding him off the object—something I’d done before a number of times and was confident about. And on the third charge, he caught me in the rib cage, because I ran out of room on the stage.
Q: This was in front of an audience?
A:Yeah, 6,500 people. And he realized he got me, that I was breathing funny, and a predator sees that as an opportunity. So the next charge, he went for my throat and all I could do was block it with my forearm. He was trying to drag me down to the ground, so I tore my arm out of his mouth and all of the muscles just kind of flopped out. But you still have a lion that wants to kill you, so I wrapped it up with a sweat towel and gaffer tape and went back to work. For about 40 minutes.