Thursday, January 10, 2008

Houston Zoo Lets Visitors Play "Tug of War" with Lions

The video below, taken by Houston attorney Jesse Ayala, was taken two days after the tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo last December. The video shows caretakers at the Houston Zoo throwing a 20-pound chunk of raw meat tied onto a rope into a lion’s pen. Guests then get to play tug-of-war with the lion.

Animal behaviorist Louis Dorfman said this type of play with an animal eating meat does nothing more than taunt him. “It’s reinforcing he should hate humans being around because humans will try to take his most precious possession which is his food away from him."

Based on what may be a taunting incident, though unconfirmed, at SF, if this were indeed the case, it wouldn't be advised.

However, zoo officials disagree.

Rick Barongi, Houston Zoo Director, said “This meat is a treat. They’re not starving. These guys get fed. They have a full compliment of diet before this is done. That was a big key to this argument. They get aggressive over food. They do if they’re hungry. We don’t do it if they’re hungry. This is an extra treat for the animals."

Okaaaaay. As long as they don't get the idea that the guests playing tug-of-war with them are an extra treat as well. The zoo said it has been doing this tug-of-war "game" for 3 years.

Watch the video:

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