I pet a lion cub. Six-months-old and lying next to two other cubs, the lion was everything I could have imagined and more. Before we walked into the compound, the facilitator warned not to touch the head or tail. When I placed my hand across the cub’s back, the fur was coarser than I thought it would be. As I looked down on the sleeping cub, I could not believe I was living this moment. Prior to coming to Africa, I thought this was the experience that would define my trip.
I supported unethical practices. The lion cubs were too docile for their age. Although lions sleep for an average of 16 hours a day, the facilitator went silent when we asked whether the lions were sedated. The Lion Park is one of the top-ranked attractions in Johannesburg, and while they claim that the lion cubs are not sentenced to a canned hunting lifestyle, that does not excuse the way they treat the clubs currently in their reserve.
From this experience, I was ashamed to have supported such an industry and turned a blind eye to the cruelty. I was ecstatic about this opportunity before coming to Africa. While I was aware of the unethical practices, I did not want to acknowledge them. I hoped for the best and let my ignorance justify my actions.
But there really is no end is there? When we use plastic grocery bags rather than reusable ones; when we support animal cruelty by eating meat; when we drive to a destination rather than taking a bus. And while there are alternatives to each presented case, the point is that it’s very easy to make a decision without proper research that has negative consequences in the future.
The wildlife in Africa is amazing and there is no place in the world that offers such gems. Having said that, like most treasures on our planet, humankind abuses our power and exploits these resources. I’m not saying it isn’t possible to enjoy the natural wildlife. Rather the point I’m trying to make is that with media and marketing and all these other channels that are committed to earning a revenue for whatever corporation or country that heads it, we disregard the lives and resources we touch. It’s disgusting.
I hope one day we can find a balance. A co-worker at work said the only way for change is literally to start from the ground up. But that’ll be catastrophic. I want to see a changed world but I don’t want to destroy lives. He doesn’t believe you can do one without the other. I’m still unsure. There are a lot of beautiful and inspiring events, people, and companies currently – there need to be more in order to make an actual impact.
To bring it back… What I can I do? I can live more consciously, act more responsibly and make the effort to challenge our current system. I know. It sounds fluffy. It sounds like talk. It’s easier said than done. For sure – but how can we start doing all these things if we cannot even address them? Baby steps….
I urge you to see an Africa beyond its lions, giraffes, and elephants. That’s the first image of Africa that popped into my mind six months ago when I thought of my trip here. However, being here now, I see there is so much more (South) Africa offers; the people, the history, the food! There is really so much more to the beautiful country that we can enjoy without hurting the animals. I know, I know – easier said than done. But next time someone talks about Africa and immediately references the wildlife (to which many are now endangered, caged, or extinct), bring up something else about the country and be surprised to see where that will lead you.