conservation, Elisa, friendship, future, life, lion, memory, New Jersey, orangutan, son, Zoo
When my son was young and we wished we could still confine him to a stroller but yeah good luck with that, we brought him to the Space Farms Zoo in Sussex New Jersey. I’d been alive awhile and never heard of it, but hey! A learning experience, let’s go! We parked in vibrant emerald cornfields before harvest, and before we left the lot I was stricken, no exaggeration, absolutely stricken by the sound of a lion who was half a mile away. I stopped walking and just couldn’t stop listening to his voice. He was speaking, announcing, conquering. He had a truth he wanted to say and I don’t know how anyone could not hear him. Breathtaking.
Years later I came across YouTube videos of a man in South Africa who took lions into his care and works so very hard at trying to help people and lions live together on the same land. His name is Kevin Richardson and you can look up his work at your will. I learned so much about lions and hyena, their relationships, behaviors, and why we need to preserve them in our world.
Recently my friend Elisa and I visited the Norfolk Zoo and at one point during our walk a male lion spoke. He made us aware of his intentions. He became the center of the Universe. I’m not convinced the people at the zoo understood lions the same way Kevin Richardson does, but I do not doubt their dedication to the creatures in their care. So he roared the way you don’t hear him in the movies, Roooarhhhh ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh…. His call to assert his hierarchy and his bond with the ladies. And I could not move. I just had to stop. Breathtaking. Lion. Captive yet regal, visceral, owning us all, all the way down into my bones. I was not expecting to hear this. Hear him. And I wept. And she saw me. And I could not avoid the question, “Are you okay?” Of course I’m not okay. How can any of us be okay in the presence of him, while we condone canned hunting and can’t figure out how to live with him in his land? So I lied and said, “I’m fine.” But she knew I was not. Elisa wrote about her very own capture as she walked in peaceful astonishment with the Orangutans.
Today I’m thinking about the lies we tell ourselves. The lion’s roar in lands we can’t quite commit to living with. Humans we won’t commit to protecting. Elon Musk’s rockets are dreams of the future, ones we should pursue, but where is that future for 20,000 lions left on the continent of Africa?