Lion Mauls American Tourist – Another very sad and avoidable Incident that reflects negatively on safe Tourism in Africa
The highly publicized attack- Lion mauls American Tourist – during the past week at the Lion Park near Johannesburg in South Africa again highlights the grave need for Tour and Safari Operators, and Tour Guides to know and understand the behavior patterns of Wild animals before taking clients on Safari and the need to ensure the absolute safety of our clients.
I draw your attention to our blog entry dated 19th March 2015 where we discussed a young hyena being in close proximity to our tour group while on Safari at the picnic spot in Kruger National Park. Drawing on many years of experience of taking tour groups into the nature areas, we were able to provide our clients with a very special experience on the day and in total safety.
In this instance where the Lion attacked Miss Kathrine Chappell through the open car window at the Lion Park, there had to be numerous signals given by the lion leading up to this incident. It would be totally unnatural behavior for a lion to simply grab at a person sitting INSIDE a vehicle. There must have been something, or some action, from within this vehicle to cause the lion to approach the vehicle and to react in a manner that it did.
It is my view that the tour guide and driver of the vehicle would have been given numerous signals by the lions that should have alerted him to the fact that this lion was paying unusual attention to the vehicle. The photograph published following this attack shows the lioness apparently squatting next to the vehicle and peering in at the person sitting inside prior to the actual attack.
Had the tour guide been paying full attention to the animal, as he should have been, he would have had sufficient time, in my view, to accelerate away from the lion, and/or to close the window at the same time. Understanding that this particular vehicle is fitted with electrically operated windows AND it is standard procedure to keep the motor running at all times while in close proximity to lions and other big five animals.
It is very sad that an incident like this has happened but hopefully this will be a lesson to all tour operators and guides that we ARE the responsible person when we have clients with us and that it is our duty as tourism professionals to equip ourselves with the necessary skills to safeguard our clients. It must be remembered at all times that it is our clients who are on holiday, and not the tour guide!