Lions once roamed from the southern tip of Africa all the way to northwestern India. But today, their populations have declined drastically in Africa.
Since 1975, 80-90% of the African lion population has been decimated, due to hunting, habitat loss, and disease. Several efforts are on-going to help save these animals, which play an important role in the food chain and Africa’s ecosystem.
There is a place in Africa where you can walk with lions. Where you can be part of the pride. And this is exactly what a group of volunteers are doing, as they take part in a unique conservation programme at Zimbabwe’s Antelope Park. Animal Planet’s new series LODGING WITH LIONS follows the volunteers as they venture into the lions’ domain and find out more about these majestic animals – from how they hunt and stalk their prey, to how they play and nurture their young. This July, LODGING WITH LIONS airs on Animal Planet, every Monday to Friday at 9 pm.
At Antelope Park, Zimbabwe, a group of volunteers from all over the world have signed up for a unique conservation programme, which is part of the efforts of the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT). For their own safety and survival, the volunteers must first learn how to read a lion’s posture, how to approach the lions in a non-threatening manner, and what to do when faced with a dangerous situation. Dan Matthews, who heads the volunteer programme, then introduces the volunteers to the lions affectionately known as the ‘Ds’ and the ‘Rs’. Over the course of two weeks, the volunteers will observe the lions, walk with them, watch them feed their cubs, follow them on hunts, and even tag them with microchips to obtain invaluable data which could help save lion populations. They also witness firsthand the devastating effects of poaching, and discover that in the African bush there are other dangers apart from wild beasts.
Follow these passionate volunteers who are LODGING WITH LIONS, discover the threats faced by the African lions, and find out what is being done to save these iconic animals known as ‘The King of the Beasts’.
LODGING WITH LIONS - EPISODE DESCRIPTIONS
Episode 1 - New volunteers arrive at Antelope Park and Dan, the manager, takes them through the procedure of walking with lions. Natalia, one of the lion management interns feeds three baby cubs. The volunteers build a boma to entice zebra and wildebeest to come and eat. Once trapped the prey species will be transported to the release site. In the early evening the R lions make an impala kill on a walk.
Episode 2 - The volunteers participate in an exciting game capture mission. Once the boma is completed, the helicopter drives wildebeest into the funnel and the impala get caught up in the nets. Two intern researchers observe how lions react to different species and find out that catnip really does have a euphoric reaction. We learn about the cubs’ eating habits. A devastating poaching incident is discovered during a snare sweep. And a bush fire runs wild as the volunteers fight to control it.
Episode 3 - Dan takes the Rs on a routine walk that lead to a few chases. Volunteers make an enrichment toy for the lions in the form of a zebra skin with wooden legs! This gets the lions’ curiosity buzzing with excitement as they attack it. Leigh-Anne and the interns dart a microchip into the cubs. The Ds sharpen their hunting tactics and put their skills to the test as they chase after the prey, but did not succeed. A delicious snack is hidden in the enclosure for the lions to find.
Episode 4 - In this episode we catch the cubs being energetic on their routine walk. Leigh-Anne tries everything to trick the elephants for deworming. It takes a lot to mask the smell but they manage to do it in the end. Cub spoor is carefully measured and assessed for statistics. The volunteers visit and explore the local orphanage that Antelope Park supports. The lions show how high they are willing to jump for what they want, and the filming quad chopper has a narrow escape!
Episode 5 - A celebrity guest to Antelope Park studying human body language goes on her first lion walk and is intrigued by the various lion body language cues. Volunteers get their hands dirty in meat prep for a cub feast. The lions try to take on a zebra herd, and the volunteers come face to face with charging wildebeest and zebra. Laeli and Leywa take down an impala in front of Nicola, the celebrity guest, leaving her feeling shocked and amazed.
Episode 6 - Volunteers get down and dirty as they make a mud wallow for the elephants. A new volunteer group is introduced to the cubs and they get to learn the rules and regulations. Nathan teaches how to habituate animals in the new boma. Volunteers put in hard work as they repair huge gullies in the road. The Ngamo pride has an exciting hunt as a herd of wildebeest comes trotting right into the lions’ path. We then say farewell to some faithful volunteers.
Episode 7 - Dala and Rusizi go exploring and take great delight in getting wet in the process. The elephants put on an animated show for the horse safari at the Antelope Park dam. Leigh-Anne darts a male lion for relocation. A harrowing tale is told by Megan, the lion researcher whose father was killed by lions several years ago. Matthew, a photography intern captures a lion kill on his camera and he relays the story.
Episode 8 - Join Kate as she walks with lions for the first time and experiences them on the hunt for zebra. The two lions try their luck all morning but the zebra stallions dominate them. Volunteers are put to the test while building a hide to observe vultures from close range. Kate helps out during the lion enrichment building, and also experiences the gory side of Antelope Park.
Episode 9 - The volunteers witness a different side to elephants, as they are protected by the pachyderms during a wildebeest intrusion. Close encounters on a horse safari get the horses hot and bothered. Leigh-Anne darts a lioness for relocation. For the first time, the Antelope Park has six lions that go out on a walk together.
Episode 10 - Volunteers witness an exciting chase by the lions as they attempt to pursue wildebeest. A baby mongoose that was abandoned by its mother is found, and this new arrival is already making Antelope Part its home! Leigh-Anne needs to dart another lioness for relocation. The elephants of the park overwhelm an individual out on an elephant walk.
Episode 11 - Photographic volunteer witnesses Wakanaka kill an impala and was able to capture it on her camera. Leigh-Anne builds a den in preparation for a new cub. A zebra stallion attacks Ruvubu and bites her flank, and the cubs discover a tortoise on a walk.
Episode 12 - Leigh-Anne introduces us to the latest cub additions to the park. The cubs’ climbing abilities are put to the test on a walk. Nathan encounters two lionesses that succeed in killing an impala in the darkness – all of which is captured on camera by the photography intern. Volunteers say goodbye to the cubs on their final walk.
Episode 13 - The cubs are lively and playful on their morning walk. Volunteers are introduced to a different species… snakes! Nathan then shows them how to release snakes back into the bush. The T’s try their luck with a herd of wildebeest. A research intern talks about her experiments with the pride. The lions go on an exhilarating night encounter and take down an impala.