I happened to preview a movie that is currently being rented at the Red Box and other local video rental places. It was called “Burning Bright”. The movie is about a man that wants to start an animal exhibit on his property. What would you do if a tiger was loose in your house? Here’s the trailer.
After seeing this movie I recalled an attack that actually happened at a local theme park named African Lion Safari up in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I have personally been there twice, as I live in Western New York, Buffalo.
In the summer we are just so eager to start exploring and visiting places of interest. When African Lion Safari opened up everyone wanted to see the park. Many of us head to Canada, Niagara Falls, Toronto for the better attractions. I personally have always wanted to go on a safari. This seemed as close as you could get.
The first time I went, the trip there seemed long and boring. It felt as if we were never going to get there. It is in a remote section of Hamilton. There is hardly anything there at all. For some reason the animals weren’t out or around. The animals were so far away that you couldn’t even see them, unless you had thought to bring binoculars. This was the early days of the safari park. I think that they had to rethink the idea of the park and hone it to improve ticket sales. We left disappointed for sure.
A number of years went by and the park began to boast of it’s improved capabilities to be close to the animals. Pictures on TV revealed that the animals were right near your car. My husband and I worked in Canada doing theatrical shows as we had a band. We had permanent passes to cross the Peace Bridge and decided to take a day trip in between shows. African Lion Safari was the destination.
The second trip was totally different than the first trip altogether. This time you had the feeling you were entering a compound. You saw high fences, electrical fences and actually at this point I started to get worried. It was like entering the movie set of King Kong. We were driving a truck, without air conditioning and it was a standard shift. Do not do this if you go. Air conditioning is a must or you will want to open your windows. All the exhibits are right out in the hot sun. You do feel like you are on the Serengeti Plain. Opening windows is a no-no and very unsafe!
Traffic was very heavy, bumper to bumper. You get a brochure that contains a map. No one gave us any warning of anything. I never thought I was claustrophobic but being locked in made me very nervous. Basically you are in the cage of your car and the animals are in their own environment. If they can enter your car in any way, you are in trouble.
The day was very hot, we were roasting and you could only follow the car ahead of you. We were dripping wet at this point. The safari starts light with birds, flowers, gardens and then you get to see some giraffe wandering around and they come right up to your car. So do the ostrich birds. In the middle there is a place to watch the elephants bathing and then you can stretch your legs and watch a few shows. We saw parrots, predatory birds and more. Reptiles were there and you get to go on a small safari swamp boat with just some robotic type things in the water.
Even here I was apprehensive to get out of the vehicle as I had the feeling that wild animals at any time could romp through the park. I was on guard, but that is just me. I am sensitive to things like this and very aware of my surroundings.
We came to the monkey area and that is when things for me got unnerving. Monkeys were crawling all over the vehicles damaging whatever accessories were on the vehicles. If you have a brand new vehicle do not take it there or you will be so mad. These animals are wild animals and destroy things. We saw people in front of us and behind us opening their windows and feeding the animals. These monkeys were the kind with the red butts. Oh no, these guys can be very nasty. People have gotten mauled and killed by these guys. I couldn’t believe my eyes that people were feeding them with their hands, through open windows.WOW! We did not see one groundskeeper stopping any of this. There were at least a hundred of these guys tearing apart windshield wipers, moldings, mirrors and more. One sat right on our hood staring directly into the car, scaring the crap out of me. We snapped a picture of this.
To me at this point this was not enjoyable, but you could not get out and pass anyone, you had to stay in line, follow the traffic in order to get out. The truck was like a sauna and I thought I was going to pass out from the heat alone. We never thought of bringing water with us either. Not for the elderly, I will say that too.
We had a window in the back of the truck that was kind of open for when we pack our equipment. This led right to the back window of our truck inside the cab. I was nervous one was going to get in through that window and get in the cab. Now my mind was going into panic mode.
People were actually trying to touch these monkeys and take pictures with them. Potentially we saw dozens of windows up and down. The monkeys were scarey and if you have children, better lock the windows and make sure your arm doesn’t hit the wrong buttons!
Then on to the finale which was the lion and tiger, big cat area. They were pretty much back off the road, lying under a tree, but you had the sense that this was without a doubt THEIR TERRITORY! You could still smell the cat urine through the vents of the vehicle. It is a very wild smell and alerts you that this is theirs. We did see people rolling their windows down to take pictures. It made me feel sad to see them there, like prisoners and wondered where they were from in the first place. Misplaced for sure.
Actually I thought I was going to enjoy seeing the park. As time went on I began to get angry that these animals are deprived of their natural surroundings and I just paid to continue their plight.
It was shortly after that visit to African Lion Safari that an attack by these same cats happened. Something was bound to happen at that park with everything we saw. We saw one zebra truck the whole time we were there. Zebra trucks were the groundskeepers. We never had the sense they were there to protect us, just tend to the animals.
It was reported on radio that a couple entered the park, had their windows open and were feeding the big cats when they were brutally attacked, mauled and almost killed. We heard the report that the female had her scalped ripped off. At that point I felt sad that these animals locked in a compound had attacked but in my mind blamed the couple for opening their windows and feeding them. I did not realize at the time and the case was quickly hushed up for legal reasons the true outcome of the case.
African Lion Safari removed commercials off the airwaves and it was several years before they even began to advertise again. It was like they wanted to disappear off the map. I am not sure they even opened their doors, but must have to continue care of the animals.
It actually wasn’t until I saw the movie “Burning Bright” that I recalled the tiger attack. How horrible this must have been.
I am going to site the places online that revealed the true nature of the attack, but also go through how it actually happened, making you aware of the safety of your lives if you enter this park to visit.
The couple went to Wendy’s prior to entering the park, leaving all their garbage there at Wendy’s.
Just like my husband and I, this couple decided to take a fun day trip to African Lion Safari. They entered the park, paid their ticket fees and received a brochure. No addtional warnings were given to us or them when they entered the park. They should have warned people of the danger and told them to keep their windows shut, stay inside their cars and not to feed the animals, just for safe keeping.
If you have any trouble with your vehicle at all, like over heating, do not enter this park.
On their entrance they noticed the zebra trucks with tiger cubs in them. They proceeded. They too had a standard shift vehicle and this was a pain as you had to ride the clutch almost the entire time with bumper to bumper traffic.
They had purchased disposable cameras before entering the park to take picture. I found a video on you tube that depicts this bumper to bumper traffic. Apparently now they have two lanes of traffic. You also see the zebra trucks.
The couple winds through the park. When nearing the lions and tigers they notice a zebra truck go by with a tiger cub. I might mention here that this couple’s truck is also black and white, bearing a strip across it’s exterior, looking very similar to the zebra truck. The girl snaps a photo of the cats through the glass, (the photo shows the window up and is used as evidence) then all hell breaks loose! A tiger charges their vehicle, from the passenger side rocking it wildy from side to side, the male driver’s foot slips off the clutch and the vehicle stalls while his arm knocks down off the steering wheel hitting the automatic window release. Two female tigers are at the driver’s side and attack the driver by his right arm, a tiger attacks on the passenger side grabbing the female passenger by the hip and begins pulling her out of the vehicle. She grabs onto her male companion trying to hold onto him and keep him from being pulled out of the vehicle. Both are being savagely attacked by these tigers. The fight goes on with tigers trying to rip the passengers from their vehicle. No zebra trucks with groundskeepers are around. No cell phones exist at this time.
Finally a zebra truck appears and manage to drive the cats off with BB Guns. It took 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. The woman is comatose in the rear seat. The man is bleeding profusely. ( See the complete story in files resources). Damages filed were approximately 2.5 million dollars. This was finally settled in 2007. Neither the man nor the woman have returned to a normal life or their jobs.
Pictures taken at the scene and used as evidence, reveal no items of food in the car or on the ground around the vehicle. There was no proof this couple was feeding the cats at all. The power windows were working, but only take 4 seconds to lower both windows. This had occurred when the man’s arm slipped off the steering wheel by the jolt of the cat attacking the vehicle. My feeling is on the rocking motion the car came up and made contact with the man’s arm from the intense attack. The vehicle was severely damaged.
Why did the tigers attack? Did they think that the vehicle was the zebra truck with their babies? Their vehicle was also the same color as the zebra trucks.
The actual case online:http://www.thomsonrogers.com/sites/default/files/docs/library/Cowles%20v.%20Balac,%202004%20CanLII%2035084%20(ON%20S.C.).pdf
African Lion Safari Brochure with warnings
This disclosure is on the website of African Lion Safari:
African Lion Safari & Game Farm Ltd.will not be responsible for injury, damage or loss, to persons or property, however caused
However this disclosure cannot override laws currently in place by Canada or it’s jurisdictions to protect the public from dangerous animals that are not controlled by their owners. If you pay a price to enter their property their obligation is to protect you.
Pictures are all taken by me and with my camera. 35mm camera was used. A zoom lens was not used at any time. Nor were the windows of our vehicle down at any time.