About the Shearwater Lions
Shearwater started operating
walk with lions at Victoria Falls in
September 2005. The well being of the lions in our care is a primary
concern of the Shearwater team.
In recent times there has been considerable discussion and
debate regarding the use of lions in the tourism industry and in
particular relating to the canned hunting industry. In view of this
Shearwater would like to make their position clear to our valued
agents and clients.
The lions that Shearwater use in their
Lions activity at Victoria Falls come from, and
belong to, The Lion Park in Harare.
This facility has been owned and operated by the Bristow
Family for three generations. The park was started by Mr. Ozzy
Bristow in the 1960s when farmers, who had shot lions that were
raiding their livestock herds, would bring him cubs that they had
found. Ozzy had a passion for wildlife and in particular lions, and
rather than let the cubs die he took them in and cared for them. As
the number of lions in his care grew it became expensive for him to
provide for them so in an attempt to raise funds he opened the park
to the paying public. Along the way the park was relocated just
outside Harare and later Ozzy was approached by a number of
filmmakers who needed trained lions for their films. Subsequently
the lions appeared in a large number of movies, documentaries, and
television advertisements. This secured the future of the park and
the welfare of the animals there. In addition the park focused on
receiving school groups from urban and rural areas which gave them
the opportunity to educate the children about lions and the
importance of preserving their habitats.
In addition to operating the Lion Park the Bristow Family also
operate the Pamuzinda Safari Lodge where they have offered lion
walks to their guests for the last twenty years.
In early 2005 Shearwater were approached by the Park with
regards to setting up an operation at Victoria Falls. After a
thorough feasibility study Shearwater and the Lion Park entered into
a Joint Venture and the product was launched in September 2005.
The facts pertaining to the utilisation of the lions are as
1. All of the lions are owned by the Lion Park.
2. A portion of revenue generated at Victoria Falls is paid to
the Lion Park which helps them sustain their facilities. This has
been a great help as the Park has generally fallen on hard times due
to the lack of demand from the movie industry and as a result of the
general economical downturn in Zimbabwe.
3. All the lions are bred in captivity and hand reared.
4. Generally the lions come to us at an age of around 3-4
5. Generally the lions are returned to the Lion Park at an age
of around 18 months.
6. Since starting in September 2005 the Victoria Falls
operation has used a total of 16 lions of which 8 are currently
based at Victoria Falls.
7. Once the lions have outgrown the operation in Victoria
Falls they are returned to the Lion Park in Harare where they are
either used for advertising and film making purposes, captive
breeding, or released into the Lion Park.
8. We have a clear understanding with the Lion Park owners
that none of the lions used at Victoria Falls will ever be used for
hunting of any kind. We have made it quite clear to the Lion Park
that we will dissolve our Joint Venture with them should we have
reason to believe that they are in breech of this understanding.
9. In addition, we have insisted that if any of the lions
which have been used at Victoria Falls are sold onto other
operators, that those operators must not be in any way associated
with canned hunting. Accordingly the Lion Park are to advise us
should they at anytime sell a lion that has been used at Victoria
Falls and to advise Shearwater of whom it is being sold to.
10. All of the lions ever used by Shearwater at Victoria Falls
are still at the Lion Park in Harare with the exception of one lion
which died of natural causes. None of them have ever been sold onto
other operators and none of them have ever been used for hunting.
11. In an attempt to further assist the Lion Park in the
future, Shearwater are currently developing plans to establish a
Lion Sanctuary at the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve which will
accommodate a significant number of older lions. This will reduce
the burden on the Lion Park in terms of caring for these lions and
will also give the lions a comfortable and fitting environment in
which to spend the remainder of their days.
12. We are aware that a number of other organisations are
investigating the feasibility of releasing captive bred lions back
into the wild. We support these efforts and if such a scheme can be
a success we would not hesitate to seek the same for the lions used
at Victoria Falls.
lion walks which are operated by Shearwater are safe, exciting,
informative, and enjoyable experiences. They provide the perfect
platform for educating tourists about the conservation challenges
facing what remains of Africa’s wild lions.
The activity is enjoyed by a large number of visitors each
year the vast majority of whom thoroughly enjoy the experience. As a
result, the funds raised for the Lion Park help to provide for the
lions in their care, all of which are descendants of orphaned lions.
Shearwater would be happy to answer any further questions and
the operation at Victoria Falls is open daily for morning and
afternoon lion walks for those wanting to experience the lion walk
at first hand.