Friday, May 19, 2017

Close encounter with hungry lions at Lal Sohanra National Park

We often see hosts on Discovery, Animal World or National Geographic channels confronting wild and deadly animals - sometimes even to the extent of risking their lives. But they generally remain safe as all safeguards are taken by the team filming the event and guards at right nearby to prevent an ugly situation.

But what do you call an adventure, closing on to a group of hungry lions completely unprepared at very close quarters? Madness of course, but such adventures have their own charm and life time memories.. And this is exactly what I did and while I still enjoy my adventure, I sometimes think what if the lioness sitting close to me had jumped and got hold of me - well if she had, I would not have been writing this post today.

Lal Sohanra is a man made jungle spread over thousands of acres 35 kilometres east of Bahawalpur district of Punjab province of Pakistan and is considered to be the largest national parks of south Asia. UNESCO has declared Lal Sohanra national park as a Biosphere Reserve. Beside breeding rare back bucks and Neil Guy, the park also has an enclosed area where a lion and his four lionesses roam freely.

As per Wikipedia, there is a large variety of wild life that include wildcats, jackals, rabbits and bustards. The park is littered with a large number of reptiles like monitor lizard, Russell's viper, Indian cobra, saw-scaled viper, wolf snake, John's sand boa, and spiny-tailed lizard. As for birds, there are over 150 species of birds including the largely extinct houbara bustard, griffin vulture, crested honey buzzard, marsh harrier, hen harrier, laggard falcon, peregrine falcon, kestrel, Eurasian sparrow hawk, Egyptian vulture, lark, shrike, wheat-ear, and barn owl. Lake Patisar, a large body of water in the center of the park, is ideal for bird watching. In mid-winter, the lake is regularly home to between 10,000 and 30,000 ducks and common coot.

Now coming back to the lions and my adventure. While visiting the park, we saw a pride of a lion and four lionesses resting some distance away from the dirt track we were riding. Finding this a lifetime opportunity as tourists find during lion safari in the African jungles, I stopped the car and came out and asked my family to follow the suit, who reluctantly also came out. Now there we were standing some 30 feet from the nearest lioness as can be seen in the photo above. I took a snap and asked one family member to take my photo with the lions in the background.

Perhaps the photographer panicked and shoot a photo with nothing in it. And during this time I had my back towards the lioness who could have easily jumped and grabbed me - luckily she did not and we hurriedly got in the car and slowly moved on. I can still feel those gazing pale eyes of the big cat who spared me for God knows why.Unknown to us, it was almost the meal time of the lions and soon we saw a truck coming with fresh meat pieces and threw in front of the lions.

That was my adventure that nearly cost me my life - and ain't gonna take such adventure ever..Would you ever?

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