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Antelope Park (ALERT)


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During a recent visit to Zimbabwe I visited Antelope Park in Gweru.

I understand that Gweru is one of three franchises and they keep just over 100 lions at Gweru.

 

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To begin the park was not quite as I had imagined. It has a beautiful setting and is well constructed and neat. There are various options to accommodation including self catering, camping, and full board.

 

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This pretty little dam is a very attractive feature.

 

The staff were very friendly and helpful, and all credit must go to them.

 

Once we arrived we were shown a list of activities and each one had a price tag attached. Of course you are made aware that it is for a good cause and the money for all these activities is well spent on lion breeding and conservation. So - naturally you would imagine that I had no problem forking out for each activity.

 

Not so fast - as I wasn't as easily fooled as the steady stream of tourists were.

 

Mrs, Dikdik opted for an Elephant ride as she has always wanted to ride an elephant. I was allowed to follow them on foot. She had a great time and loved being close to these great beasts and to be able to touch them.

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I decided to go on an educational tour to learn more about lion breeding, as this was what it was all about.

 

to be continued.....

Edited by dikdik
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From you immediate experience and observations, how would you describe the majority of visitors? Young? Backpacker types? Serious safari tourists? etc. Matt

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Be interested to hear the rest of your report, I have visited Antelope Park and really enjoyed it. Who wouldn't like playing with lion cubs. But at the back of my mind was always a question about how ethical it all is, which may just be me being a cynic. I am never convinced about the captive breeding thing. In general I think animals are pretty good at breeding the problem is space for them to maintain their populations and until that is changed, there is not much point breeding more and more animals.

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You are correct Tumba - Who can resist petting lions.

 

its difficult to profile the type of tourist that is a volunteer GW. It seems that they range in age and come from all over the world. One thing that they have in common is that they are gullible and keep to help the lions. I have issues with how easily these people are do indoctrinate and the responsibility of Alert is to impart on accurate truthful information. It would be sad if this platform for enlightening people on the plight of lions is not entirely truthful.

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The reason for the delay in concluding this report, is that I have written pages and pages about the experience and need to condense it. I need to blunder on.

 

Remember that I have said that the people working there were terrific and passionate about saving the lions. They really feel that they are making a difference.

 

So the Lion Breeding visit as follows. They were cleaning the cages, so we got some good close ups of the lions.

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It was an educational tour, and I was told - as expected - that lions numbers have dwindled by 90% in the last 39 years ect. and that Alert is doing a 4 stage programme to breed lions to reintroduce them. Also that they have some lions that are at stage two and hunting on their own in an enclosure a little way away. I could see those lions but that would be another tour and another cost. She went on to explain that the project is so successful that Ghana and Swaziland are looking at setting up a similar operation. She said that there were no lions left in Ghana and Swaziland. She said that at one stage there was a quota to hunt over 3000 lions in one year in Zimbabwe, but they later discovered that they don't have 3000 lions in Zimbabwe. (not sure that is true) She said that they have a few lions where they detected FIV and as a result they have cordoned them off and they live separately. There used to be more, but one died and that is proof that FIV kills lions. Quite alarming was the infant mortality. Apparently infant mortality is very high even in captivity.

 

After a while I asked why they have such an elaborate 4 stage 16 year programme to release lions to the wild when they have been reintroducing lions in SA for years already. The answer was that all lions in SA are FIV positive and no-one wants them. I told her about the many smaller game farms in SA that have released lions in the 16 years that they have been busy with their programme. She thought I was lying. She then said that over 90% of Kruger lions are also gone in the same 39 years as a result of FIV. I had to correct her there. That is quiet simply not true, and I pointed that out to her. You cant blame her for repeating what she is taught. But imagine how easily all the other visitors would believe that.

 

We went on to see the "hunting lions" these are tame lions that are from the walking with lions stage. They use these lions for paying clients to walk with at night in the hope that they can see a kill. I am sure the average tourist wouldn't find this odd, but for me, it was extraordinary.

 

At the stage we were there, there were two single cubs from separate litters (single survivors) being bottle fed, and there were two sets of two cubs the right age for the walking activity.

 

Even Mrs Dikdik couldn't see that bigger picture. Clearly this is a good business with two franchises in other areas as well as the possibility of opening up in Ghana and Swaziland as well as a rumored one in Cape Town. I believe that the lion release story is nothing but a front to con gullible tourists and truck loads of backpackers to empty their pockets.

 

So, do I have a problem with a zoo? No. The lions are well kept and seem comfortable enough.

Do I have a problem with them running a good functional business and employing many people? No - good for them.

Do I have a problem with them encouraging tourism in Zimbabwe? No - Zim needs all the tourist dollars possible.

 

So where do I have a problem? We had a good time while we were there!

 

Perhaps someone else could explain better why I felt cheated.

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I guess you feel cheated if someone is trying to deceive you, as I said earlier this sort of unnatural captive breeding with animals being hand reared and then re-educated to be wild is not the answer to conserving lions. Maybe the owners could answer that they are raising awareness and the paid activities are helping support their conservation work, but I wonder how much of the profits go back into conservation.

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Remember that I have said that the people working there were terrific and passionate about saving the lions. They really feel that they are making a difference.

 

I believe that the lion release story is nothing but a front to con gullible tourists and truck loads of backpackers to empty their pockets.

 

So, do I have a problem with a zoo? No. The lions are well kept and seem comfortable enough.

Do I have a problem with them running a good functional business and employing many people? No - good for them.

Do I have a problem with them encouraging tourism in Zimbabwe? No - Zim needs all the tourist dollars possible.

 

So where do I have a problem? We had a good time while we were there!

 

Perhaps someone else could explain better why I felt cheated.

 

dikdik, I do believe you hit the nail on the head here so far.....a tourist trap! As 'tumba' rightfully says "Who wouldn't like playing with lion cubs."

....a business! (few employed, why? Is it to do with 'VOLUNTEERS') Yes, Zim is needing the tourist 'dollar' but what is been returned in to conservation, are the local communities around Gweru benefiting from this 'tourist industry'? How much is really being brought into the country?

 

As you say "a zoo", do we need such places in Zimbabwe? We have plenty space to keep them 'wild'!

 

Whilst there, did anyone explain what is/has been done so far by 'ALERT' in the 'wildlife areas' to help with conservation and how they are working with the local farmers/villages?

 

"Quite alarming was the infant mortality. Apparently infant mortality is very high even in captivity." yet this was denied by?? (wont mention names here), in one of my most recent 'debates' with him!

 

The question should also be asked, "who is a 'FULL' qualified Professional Guide there, (how many do they have too)? The law in Zim states, that any wildlife/safari park including 'private land', that has 'any' of the 'dangerous game' offering game viewing for reward 'must' have a minimum of a 'learner guides licences' AND 'accompanied' by a 'armed' 'FULL' Professional Guide at 'all' times!

 

With the 'false' information you had been given, how much more of this goes on there, the foreign tourist has no idea false form truth, so wouldn't be able to ask question as you did and correct the 'guide'!

 

I have always asked how 'professional' are they at putting facts across to anyone. Will any "Serious safari tourists" as Matt describes it be really willing to experience this after having experienced a 'serious safari' with a 'Professional Guide'.

Yes, it will be great to see 'game' close up, even touch it, ride it, walk with it. But what better way is there to see 'wild' game in their natural habitat, smell them, track them early in the morning, learn about the habitat, flora and fauna whilst on foot in these 'wild' areas. Stalking 'wild' lions on foot, making sure every movement you make is slow as not to 'ALERT' or disturb them making them aware of your presence, taking photos, sitting and watching them for a while before leave in the same manner in which you came....dikdik, maybe this why you felt cheated?

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Thanks for the insightful report.

 

Since you discovered some lies or errors in facts, does it make you wonder why? Either deceit or misinformation wass occuring. So what else is not true?

 

Have any lions been released yet? Or are they not yet 16 years into the program.

 

If release into areas that have lost lions does occur, and if those areas can protect the lions and their habitat, this is great.

 

But the answers you received make me wonder about the "ifs."

 

Walking with a lion that is intent on killing prey in the night seems terribly dangerous.

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If the were breeding lions to be released, and their theory has yet to be proved after 16 or so years, then why is there a need to open two more franchises? and why are they planning to expand to Cape Town, Swaziland and Ghana?

 

I think I am big enough to find deceit less offensive, my concern is the hundreds (if not thousands) of volunteers who they are making into experts. I am angry at the companies that supply the volunteers - they should know better. Lets put it this way, if the whole lion breeding for release is a scam (which I firmly believe it is) then they have to distort the truth to ensure their willing volunteers are convinced.

 

I think if you get a calculator out and add up the three franchises and the money made from lion walking added to the income from paying volunteers plus income from overnighters and the funds raised from the charity drive you will realize that they have tapped into a huge financial resource - my bet is that you could have done way better with the money. While they haven't released a single lion - lion numbers continue to decline - So how effective have they been?

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If the were breeding lions to be released, and their theory has yet to be proved after 16 or so years, then why is there a need to open two more franchises? and why are they planning to expand to Cape Town, Swaziland and Ghana?

 

I think I am big enough to find deceit less offensive, my concern is the hundreds (if not thousands) of volunteers who they are making into experts. I am angry at the companies that supply the volunteers - they should know better. Lets put it this way, if the whole lion breeding for release is a scam (which I firmly believe it is) then they have to distort the truth to ensure their willing volunteers are convinced.

 

I think if you get a calculator out and add up the three franchises and the money made from lion walking added to the income from paying volunteers plus income from overnighters and the funds raised from the charity drive you will realize that they have tapped into a huge financial resource - my bet is that you could have done way better with the money. While they haven't released a single lion - lion numbers continue to decline - So how effective have they been?

 

dikdik, I believe you have it all wrapped up here in a single nut shell, couldn't agree with you more.

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dikdik, I believe you have it all wrapped up here in a single nut shell, couldn't agree with you more.

+1

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  • 3 weeks later...

For those interested here is the price list

 

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