Staff, 2023-01-11 06:04:35,
The lion charges the electric fence, and I leap backward.
“These lions are not accustomed to humans,” Casper van der Merwe says in his distinctive Afrikaner accent.
I am standing less than five feet from five very large, healthy, well-fed lions, nothing but strands of wire separating us. The wire is supposed to be electrified, but I catch a lion licking it to no ill effect. Another young female charges me but is stopped by an older lioness, who bats her on the nose with a huge paw.
“We only feed them twice a week, and we throw the meat over the fence,” van der Merwe says. He’s a fit, handsome cowboy in his 30s. Along with his wife, Anneke, he runs Jenobli Safaris in North West province, South Africa, not far from the border with Botswana.
Lions are big business in South Africa. Ecotourism generates some $2.4 billion in annual revenue. Tourists typically visit to go on safari—Kruger National Park, home to some 2,000 wild lions, is the continent’s most popular wildlife park—and the number one animal on the checklist is the iconic, majestic, wild lion.
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