WORLD LION DAY AWARENESS CAMPAIGN - A TUG OF WAR - LION vs THE UNDER 16S LIONS FOOTBALLERS
The Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden, Kent was the setting for the battle between man and beast that was staged to raise awareness of World Lion Day, and the plight of the world's lions .
Youngsters from Foots Cray Lions Junior Football Club faced an opponent with a difference when they took on the king of the jungle in the shape of Kasanga the African lion.
The Tug of War was headed by the sanctuary's Managing Director Giles Clark who is also a BBC Presenter, Big Cat Expert and Conservationist who has a wealth of experience in in big cat care. This type of exercise is excellent to stimulate the cat both mentally and physically. A piece of meat was tied to a rope that was threaded through the fence of Kasanga’s enclosure and when he was released he was very quick on the uptake of the meat between his jaws, the tug of war began. Seemingly with minimal effort from Kasanga.
The Big Cat Sanctuary is an education and breeding centre for endangered cats, big and small.
In the past two decades the population of wild African lions has dropped by more than 40% leaving an estimated 20,000-25,000 remaining in the wild, with lions also listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List in 2015.
Private big cat experiences are offered at the sanctuary to support its work, helping to raise funds for projects including one to airlift temporary resident Kasanga, originally a circus lion, to a new home in Uganda at the cost of £16,000.
The sanctuary’s work extends to sponsoring two lions at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya to be fitted with radio collars and specialised trackers to monitor them and find solutions to the challenges they face in the wild.
Giles Clark, managing director of The Big Cat Sanctuary, said that without conservation efforts, an Africa without lions could be the reality for future generations.
Tanith Brown, spokesperson for the Big Cat Sanctuary said: “The tug of war was great fun as Kasanga is so powerful he used his sheer body weight to lean backwards and hold onto the meat.
“Boys in the team appreciated how huge and powerful a lion is and it was a good enrichment exercise for Kasanga who has an awesome personality.
“A truce was called and the game ended as it was dinner time for Kasanga but everyone had great fun.”