Imagine being face to face with one of the world’s fiercest predators.
A new cage that reverses the usual viewing experience has opened at Monarto Zoo near Adelaide, enabling visitors to walk right into the habitat of one of Australia’s largest lion prides.
“It’s a truly hair-raising experience with visitors able to enter the cage and get closer than ever before to our amazing lions,” Zoos SA chief executive Elaine Bensted said.
On Monday at the opening 11 lionesses were curiously climbing on top of the enclosure from where they roared at visitors inside the cage.
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Zoo keeper Anna Bennett said the lions were not naturally aggressive despite how it seemed.
“They are the kings and queens in Africa so they know they can command the power and attention from all of the other animals, so that’s what they are doing here,” she said.
“They know they are getting a reaction.
“Everyone reacts and so they will continue to behave that way.”
She said everyone who had visited the cage had been in awe.
“We have had the same reactions when lions sort of snarl and greet them from up above,” Ms Bennett said.
“They are all over the cage just watching our every move because they haven’t had the opportunity to be on top of us and be behind us so they are certainly stalking.”
The idea of Lions 360 was inspired by Rodney Fox who designed the first-ever underwater cage for shark diving in Port Lincoln after he was attacked by a shark in 1963.
“They are both predators, both man biters,” he said.
“I think the lions will actually eat humans more readily than sharks will.”
The zoo predicts it will attract an additional 3000 visitors to Monarto each year following the opening.
Visitors will be able to experience the cage for themselves from Saturday, while for an additional fee, some visitors will also be able to feed the lions from the cage.
“We have amazing wildlife experiences in South Australia from holding a koala to diving with great white sharks, and now being able to get up close to lions and actually hand feed them,” SA Tourism Minister Leon Bignell said.
“Lions 360 is another example of great work being done across the state to encourage visitors to South Australia, and for locals to explore their own backyard.”