Zoos are one of the most favorite holiday spots of most people, especially kids. Most kids just love visiting the zoo. Where there are most normal zoos in which animals are kept inside cages and fences, there are also safari parks where animals roam free. But there is one very unique zoo which offers much more than other zoos.
The name of the zoo is Dartmoor Zoo.
This one-of-a-kind Dartmoor Zoological Park is located near the village of Sparkwell, on the south-west edge of Dartmoor, in the county of Devon in the South West of England. Visitors to Dartmoor Zoo can do a lot more than just look at the animals as the company offers the opportunity to play tug of war with lions and tigers.
The zoo started advertising their ‘Human vs. Beast’ experience earlier this month. The advertisements went viral.
The zoo offers that for £15, children as young as eight can take on the big felines in a game of tug-of-war, with the lions and tigers pulling the rope inside their cage, while their opponents take on the challenge from the safety of the other side of the fence.
Dartmoor Zoo shared a video showing their keepers playing the game with a tiger earlier this month when they wrote:
“Dragan( it’s the name of a male tiger) showed the keepers how strong he is and defeated them pretty quickly! This type of enrichment is very important to keep the cats fit and healthy, making them work for their food and build muscle mass. This is enrichment we do with them over the colder months. Want to get involved over half term? Ring the zoo as places are already being booked up!”
The zoo was opened in 1968 by Ellis Daw who ran it until its license was revoked and it was forced to close in 2006. The zoo was bought in August 2006 by Benjamin Mee who moved in with his two children Milo and Ella and reopened the zoo in July 2007. Benjamin runs the zoo till this day.
He also wrote a book about his experiences called “We Bought a Zoo” in 2008. 3 years later, a Hollywood movie titled the same as the book was also made. The movie starring Matt Damon was loosely based on the book.
Services offered in the zoo are quite unique. Recently they advertised about their offers in these words:
“You can now book our human versus beast experience. It is available between 16th-24th February and is £15pp for people aged 8+. It will either be with our male tiger Dragan or our male lion Jasiri.”
Such kind of advertisement is getting a mixed reaction among the people. Though staff at the zoo claimed the games keep the lions and tigers fit and healthy. On the other hand, animals rights activists have criticized the organization and the challenge.
— Benjamin Mee (@benjaminmee1) January 31, 2019
One international charity named The Born Free Foundation responded to it on social networking site Twitter. The foundation is an international wildlife charity that campaigns to ‘Keep Wildlife in the Wild’. That’s their sole motto.
In a tweet to Dartmoor Zoo, The Born Free Foundation wrote:
.@DartmoorZoo to offer ‘Human vs Beast Experience’ this February half-term. Is a tug of war game with a lion or tiger really the way to inspire respect for these animals? RT to urge the zoo to rethink this! #DontBuyCaptivity #KeepWildlifeInTheWild 🦁🐯 pic.twitter.com/7LvnjmAoZQ
— Born Free Foundation (@BornFreeFDN) February 18, 2019
But some people approve of the zoo’s initiative and think that it’s, of course, sad to see the animals locked up, but there is not any harm in playing games with the ones in the zoo if it really does benefit their health and fitness.
For example, the tiger in the video wasn’t forced to grab the other end of the rope, and he could have let go if he had wanted to. Ideally, the animals wouldn’t be locked up at all, but allowing them to have more interaction with visitors and keepers can surely only be a good thing for those that are.
Still, the experience has caused a lot of controversies and even a petition is being set up in an attempt to put a stop to the challenge.
Responding to the social media backlash, zoo owner Benjamin Mee said that he stood by his decision. He explained his mentality behind the initiative in these words:
“People are making a fuss about nothing. I think this is 100 per cent the right thing to be doing; the lion loves it.”
He further said that:
“One of problems people have potentially raised is the lion doesn’t get fed unless he wins, but obviously that isn’t the case. Another issue is around his teeth – well, have you seen pictures of lions tugging at wildebeests’ faces?
Their teeth are really strong – they are not coming out. But that’s nature isn’t it, it’s gruesome. In the wild the level of force a lion puts its whole physique through is considerably more than we can replicate. They do genuinely tug with other animals over carcases and one of the things for him personally is he understands it’s for his benefit.”
Well, to be honest, both opinions are valid to some extent and it’s up to the general public what they think about such an unprecedented initiative.