*Can you believe it? One photo shows a woman laying on top of a lion that is stretched out, full-length, on its side. And another shows three tourists smiling broadly, as they stand with a hand resting on top of a sleeping lion (Pictured above).
Sound bazaar? It is. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
And an Argentinian zoo is now in trouble for allowing it to happen. They are being investigated due to assertions that the lions and other big animals are being drugged just so tourists can pose next to them for photo ops.
They can thank social media for the bust.
Yep, the tourists were so excited to show their friends far and wide how they got comfy with exotic animals they put it on every available site. This caused the Buenos Aires’ Lujan Zoo to come under fire by animal activists who petitioned the government to halt the practice immediately.
Leonardo Mascitelli, an undersecretary at Buenos Aires’ Directorate of Wildlife of the Ministry of Land Affairs reacted to the accusations and says that the zoo now faces sanctions and/or possible closure after investigators joined queues where dozens of tourists were waiting to touch the animals.
The zoo boasts that it has around 400 animals which promises to offer a ‘unique interacting experience’ that allows visitors to pet, stroke, cuddle and even sit on lions, tigers and bears.
But the zoo defends its actions by insisting the animals are harmless because, as they put it, they are raised with domestic animals such as dogs and there is always a zookeeper on hand in the event something goes awry.
Don’t you feel a lot better now? Don’tcha?
They add that they make sure the animals are fed first, too. This way, they are not hungry when the humans come around.
According to zoo spokesman Neyen Rivero Longoria, “The animals are no more dangerous than domestic dogs because we have taught them the boundaries.”
‘We are the only zoo in the world that practices special training in gentleness techniques.’
But animal rights groups and tourists alike have lampooned the claims, including on the travel review site Tripadvisor.
One anonymous reviewer wrote: “There was one lion unconscious…passed out on a picnic table. When someone arrived for a photo, water was thrown on the clearly drugged lion’s face and meat was dangled in front of it.”
Another wrote: “Since I got there and saw the poor animals, I realised something was happening in there. It seems like these animals are drugged or sedated… It’s just a matter of time until someone gets hurt, and who will be the one to blame?”
And finally, according to another commentator: ‘It was an amazing experience that I went into a bit naive. The animals are clearly drugged, especially the lions.
‘However, they are taken care of and it was still terrifying to get to get in the cages with them to pet or feed them. You should just know what you are getting into.
The above comments may have been from tourists, while a Buenos Aries native got more to the point and kept it real, saying: ‘This zoo is inhumane and made my stomach turn the entire time I was there. Yes, you can get close enough to pet a tiger or ride a lion but the animals are obviously sedated and if you have ever seen these beautiful creatures in the wild it is obvious.’
On Facebook, the group called ‘Close Lujan Zoo’ has called for the zoo’s closure: ‘We are against animal mistreatment and consider Lujan Zoo to be one of the worst zoos in Argentina. ‘Many of the animals are sedated for the selfish enjoyment of people without conscience. Close Lujan Zoo!’
But the zoo also has many supporters. Of the 1,800 Trip advisor reviewers, only 130 said it was ‘poor‘ or ‘terrible’ with more than half (960) saying their experience was ‘excellent’.
Read comments by some of these supporters here at Scallywagand Vagabond.com