Visitors in the reserves
|Date opened||August 22, 1969 |
|Location||Hamilton and Cambridge, Ontario|
|Land area||300 hectares (740 acres)|
|Memberships||CAZA,WAZA, IEF, and IAATE |
African Lion Safari is a family-owned safari park in Southern Ontario, Canada, straddling the cities of Hamilton and Cambridge, located 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of Toronto. Guests may tour seven game reserves, with a total area of about 740 acres (300 hectares), via tour buses or visitors' own vehicles where animals roam freely in contained areas. Accompanying the game reserves is a walking section where exotic birds and primates, as well as the park's herd of Asian elephants, are on display.
African Lion Safari is an accredited member of the CAZA, and is also a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) as well as the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators (IAATE).
This safari park was founded by Gordon Debenham "Don" Dailley, a retired Canadian Army colonel, and opened its doors on August 21, 1969. Dailley initially partnered with the Chipperfield family from England to purchase four farms in the Rockton, Ontario area totaling 250 hectares (620 acres). He bought out the Chipperfields in the early 1970s. Dailley's sons Don and James, along with their sister Ginny, took over operations in 1989, following their father's death. It remains privately owned, and the only significant feature was the drive-through reserve. In 1971, the park began working with Asian elephants, and in 1985 they started to make a concentrated effort to breed Asian elephants. Over the years, successful breeding of 30 endangered species and 20 threatened species has occurred in the park.
On any of the seven reserves, visitors are caged in their car and the animals roam in large enclosures that range from 2 to 20 hectares (4.9 to 49.4 acres). Since the reserves are inhabited by wild animals, all feeding is prohibited and visitors must keep doors and windows of their vehicles closed. Vehicles on which openings cannot be closed or where safety is otherwise compromised (for instance, by large cracks in the windshield) will not be allowed into the reserves. Visitors can always see the reserves via the air-conditioned tour buses. Since the potential for damage to vehicles from the animals exists, a slip road is provided for all guests who wish to avoid the monkeys and any potential damage to their vehicles.
Between the Nairobi Sanctuary and the Simba Lion Country is the Cheeta breeding Center, which is home to cheetahs. This preserve features several enclosures where the cheetahs live either separately or grouped.
Simba Lion Country is home to African lions. The reserve consists of, like the other reserves such as the Nairobi Sanctuary, a grassy field. This reserve is notable because it has a structure made out of rocks so the lions can rest.
Timbavati Lion Country is home to white lions, also known as Timbavati lions. This reserve also has a rock structure for the lions to rest or play on.
The Rocky Ridge Veldt includes Rothschild's Giraffe, Grant's zebra, Wildebeest, Eland, Barbary sheep, Ostrich, White Rhinoceros, Addax, and Scimitar-horned Oryx. This reserve is grassy with shelters and shade structures and several piles of rocks for animals to climb on.
The Australasia reserve includes Himalayan Tahr, Tibetan Yak, Nilgai, Indian Rhino, Western Grey Kangaroo, Red Kangaroo, Red-Necked Wallaby, and Sicilian donkey. In smaller fenced areas on the periphery of this reserve are enclosures for Turkmenian (Bukharan) Markhor, Sichuan takin, This reserve is a mix of trees, grass and pond.
The African Lion Safari offers two tours for no additional charge; the first one is by boat around a lake whose islands are inhabited by various primates, and the second by train through a natural wetland.
There is a boat ride called the African Queen. On the African Queen, visitors will see Black-handed Spider Monkey, White-handed Gibbon, Siamang, Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur, Marabou Stork, Ring-tailed Lemur, Robust Black Spider Monkey, Pink-backed Pelican, and black swan.
The Wake Up the Wild tour is an enhanced experience guests can purchase beyond a regular day at the park, at an extra cost. Guests are taken on a private, guided tour with a game warden. The experience includes watching the safari's prides of lions released and fed in the morning. After guests transfer to an open-air truck with the Game Warden and drive through the Rocky Ridge Veldt reserve where there is an opportunity to hand-feed carrots to the Rothschild Giraffe.
Parrots and toucans displayed outside the walking area of the park include grey parrot, scarlet macaw, blue-and-yellow macaw, military macaw, great green macaw, hyacinth macaw, red-and-green macaw, Catalina macaw, white cockatoo, salmon-crested cockatoo, galah, Alexandrine parakeet, princess parrot, channel-billed toucan, and white-throated toucan.
Birds of prey displayed in the park include bald eagle, golden eagle, African fish eagle, tawny eagle, peregrine falcon, red-tailed hawk, great black hawk, Harris' hawk, ferruginous hawk, snowy owl, Eurasian eagle-owl, barn owl, spectacled owl, great horned owl, burrowing owl, marabou stork, black vulture, king vulture, turkey vulture, cinereous vulture, Andean condor, steppe eagle, lanner falcon, and American kestrel.
Other animals exhibited in the walk-through area include Asian elephant, American flamingo, collared peccary, black-capped squirrel monkey, Indian flying fox, alpaca, Indian peafowl, pygmy goat, African pied crow, Black Lemur, Crested screamer, violet turaco, Victoria crowned pigeon, and laughing kookaburra.
The park is involved in the International SSPs for Asian elephants, cheetahs, white rhinos, and cinereous vultures. It has provided captive bred barn owls, burrowing owls, trumpeter swans, ferruginous hawks, and a bald eagle to reintroduction programs for release into the wild.
The park currently claims to have the most successful Asian elephant breeding program in North America, and in 2008 became home to the first third generation Asian elephant in North America. It has received several CAZA awards, including those recognizing outstanding achievements in the care of both cheetahs and giraffes.
In 2010, "Jake" became African Lion Safari's first successful Asian elephant birth from an artificial insemination, and the first birth of this kind in Canada.
A demonstration was held at African Lion Safari on Saturday, May 4, 2013. Animal rights activists from the Grassroots Ontario Animal Liberation Network staged a protest during the Safari's opening day to raise awareness about issues surrounding the use of exotic animals for entertainment and to expose the park as a for-profit business based on animal exploitation. Activists also claimed that the use of bull hooks during elephant shows at the park were cruel and archaic.
Beyond the displays, the Lion Safari provides regularly scheduled shows featuring their collection of raptors (birds of prey), parrots and Asian elephants. The Asian elephants are also led through the park twice daily for a swim in full view of the public. Other attractions include elephant and pony rides, a petting zoo, a large wet-play area, a playground, a discovery centre and multiple food and souvenir shops.
In November 1989, Omar Norton, a 21-year-old part-time employee and biology student at McMaster University was crushed to death by a five-tonne bull elephant named Tusko while trying to break up a fight between it and another elephant.
In April 1996, a couple driving through the game reserve were mauled by a Bengal tiger (which the zoo no longer exhibits). They later launched a lawsuit against the park which took several years to resolve. Finally in January 2005, a court awarded them and their families $2.5 million.
In June 2019, a trainer was air lifted to hospital after being attacked by one of the safari's elephants.