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Eco-Tourism: A Once in a Lifetime Experience by Damienne Bingham

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Eco-Tourism: A Once in a Lifetime Experience by 

Lion Encounter
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park
Livingstone, Zambia. 2009.

Canon EOS 400D
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 100
RAW. As is.

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One of the most memorable parts of my travels in Africa is the Lion Encounter, Walk with the Lions experience offered in Zambia.

This particular young lioness was rather bored by the fuss being made of her. As this is a daily ritual, I can see the novelty value of the experience has probably worn off for her and her sister – but not for us. It was a magical, once in a lifetime experience.

The program allows tourists to walk with (and even pet) the lions and their handlers in an environment that closely mimics the wild.

The ALERT program aims to reintroduce captive-bred lions and their offspring back into the wild to increase and diversify the diminishing population of lions in the wild.

It works via a three-step process in which lions, hand raised from cubs are slowly reintroduced into wild lion behaviours. The first step in the process is to socialize these animals with humans. This sounds counter-intuitive but this allows the handlers at ALERT to introduce and teach wild behaviours to captive bred lions.

The second step involves weaning them slowly from human contact, releasing them into and allowing them to traverse the safe, monitored property of the ALERT program. In this environment their natural instincts for hunting and breeding will return. It is expected several generations of lions to be born and raised in this manner. This step allows human study of lion hunting and pack behaviour which in turn aids them in reintroducing their captive bred lions to the wild.

The third step is the final release. The aim of the program is to release groups of lions back into environments where lion populations have all but died out. These lions will already have an established pack order and will be able to establish and defend their own territory.

The areas for release are chosen based on the size and their ability to sustain the extra intake of lions through available prey, water and territory.

From the ALERT website:
There are many complications and potential dangers inherent in reintroducing lions back into the wild, most notably the likely conflicts with humans and their livestock following release; this may be especially true of captive bred lions that might not have learned human avoidance characteristics of some wild lions. There are several reasons that have been put forward to explain why past predator releases have had limited success (Sharma 2005):

• the animals were not given pre-release training
• their dependence on humans was not curtailed
• they were released as individuals with no natural social system
• and that they had no experience of predatory or competitive species.

for more information or to contribute to the program, please visit their website

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1st Place

“Animals Challenge” at Canon Photography Only
“Avatar Challenge” at Big Cats

Top Ten

“Animals Letters J,K,L Challenge” at Playful Photogenic Animals
“Avatar Challenge” at WILD AFRICA
“Cats of Africa Challenge” at Afrikaans is my Moedertaal
“Cats of Africa Challenge” at Wild Africa
“King of the Jungle Challenge” at Welcome to the Jungle


Elite Images
Real Life Photography
Yellow Two
Cats and Dogs
Feelin’ Good
Mozambique and Neighbouring Countries
Excellence in Photography
Welcome to the Jungle

Photographic Prints

damienne bingham, damienne, bingham, greeneyedharpy, green, eyed, harpy, photographs, colour, color, colourful, colorful, safari, wild, wildlife, life, africa, african, animal, zambia, lion, lion encounter, victoria falls, livingstone, walk with lions, walk, portrait, face, cat, yellow, light, eyes, expression, closeup, close up, game, reserve, conservation, alert, travel, db_rb_featured, this_is_africa_calendar

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damienne bingham, damienne, bingham, greeneyedharpy, green, eyed, harpy, photographs, colour, color, colourful, colorful, safari, wild, wildlife, life, africa, african, animal, zambia, lion, lion encounter, victoria falls, livingstone, walk with lions, walk, portrait, face, cat, yellow, light, eyes, expression, closeup, close up, game, reserve, conservation, alert, travel, db_rb_featured, this_is_africa_calendar

I am a freelance photographer originally from Brisbane, Australia, and currently living in Cape Town, South Africa.

I enjoy many forms of photography – with a particular interest in travel and nature photography. This diversity can be seen in the range of genres and styles in my portfolio

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  • Sharon Kavanagh
    Sharon Kavanaghover 3 years ago

    She is so pretty… Luv the detail in this one…

  • Thanks Sharon, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    – Damienne Bingham

  • Wendi Donaldson
    Wendi Donaldsonover 3 years ago

    A wonderful portrait….. love it!

  • Thank you Wendi!

    – Damienne Bingham

    DIZZYHEIGHTSover 3 years ago

    A bit too close for comfort. Outstanding capture Damienne. Liz

  • Thanks Liz!

    – Damienne Bingham

  • jozi1
    jozi1over 3 years ago

    Awesome shot,Damienne:)

  • Thank you very much!

    – Damienne Bingham

  • photosbytony
    photosbytonyover 3 years ago

    Whoa, you were close !! Any fear ?? Great shot ! On my bucket list for sure ! tony

  • None at all. Though that may make me naive! One of them was a little irritable and you could see it in her face, she paced around and her handlers had to keep her in check a little bit, but it wasn’t particularly obvious. We actually had an opportunity when they were lying down to crouch down with them and give them a pat and at one point we walked with them, their tails in our hand as though they were on leash!

    Quite a memorable experience!

    – Damienne Bingham

  • photosbytony
    photosbytonyover 3 years ago

    My God, guess I’d have to experience it. I had an office at the Miami Zoo quite a while back. I was the Director of a Florida food service company and the Zoo was one of our accounts. I became good friends with the Zoo Keeper, great guy, after the zoo closed he’d let me make the rounds with him at feeding time. It was a no fence Zoo but in the back of their enclosures there were bars. The White Bengal Tiger was standing as tall he could with his front paws almost on top of the enclosure and the Zoo Keeper went up and scratched his belly. I said you’re nuts and he said c’mon he’s fed, relaxed nothing to fear so I did, a quick scratch but he must have been eight feet tall it was scary. I changed jobs a few months later and a few months after that I read that that Tiger killed the guy who fed him. I called my friend and he said he was careless and running late on his feeding rounds and wasn’t paying attention and I thought and I scratched his stomach. :) tony

  • photosbytony
    photosbytonyover 3 years ago

    Guess it is good that I told you this story after you made the trip. Don’t tell me you don’t have a photo of you walking around with a “Lion By-the-Tail’, don’t tell me ! :) LOL

  • haha no I have several, and that’s quite a story. My dad did something similar, pet a tiger in a zoo in Thailand (with no supervision by the way) stupid bloody thing to do, but he has it as a memory!

    I guess the important thing is to recognize animal behaviour and moods. I could see this one particular lioness was agitated so I made sure not to crowd her. They actually give you a stick to walk with as well, you tap it on the ground in front of you, it is intended to distract the lion’s attention from you – and they recognize it as part of their training.

    – Damienne Bingham

  • George Lenz
    George Lenzover 3 years ago

    awesome close up and color processing

  • Thanks George!

    – Damienne Bingham

  • photosbytony
    photosbytonyover 3 years ago

    Amazing guess i gotta try it ! Now you have to visit the monks with the Bengal Tigers, I think in Nepal ? One more quick story with happoer ending. The Zoo Keeper used to go back to a crocodile in a little pond with special guests and he beat a stick on the water and the crocodile would soar up out of the water and snap off the stick. One day the croc got his hand almost totally severing it. They rushed him to the hospital and sewed it back on. He recovered to the point we would play basketball in the praking olot where I put up a net. He ended up marrying the emergency room nurse and told me it was the luckiest day of his life. Ahhh that’s better right ! :) tony

  • haha wow that is a great story, that’s fate for you I guess! Amazing what surgeons can do these days! And those tigers are definitely on my list of places I’d love to visit!

    – Damienne Bingham

  • Steve Biederman
    Steve Biedermanover 3 years ago

    Absolutely incredible. Wonderful gallery you have, you are very talented!

  • That’s very kind, thank you Steve. So glad you enjoyed my work, thanks for taking the time!

    – Damienne Bingham

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