6 ways to survive a lion encounter
On Friday morning, a lion escaped from Nairobi National Park and injured a 63-year-old man near City Cabanas on Mombasa Road.
The animal became agitated with people hooting their car horns and taking selfies, a wildlife official said.
This is the fourth time in less than a month that the big cats have strayed out of the park, causing alarm.
Most lions flee, even from people on foot, but an attack is a possibility and knowing how to react could save your life.
Lion behaviour varies from region to region. However, the big cats still perceive humans on foot as a threat.
Citizen Digital outlines measures to survive a lion attack as documented on BBC’s wildlife magazine, Discover Wildlife.
- Don’t bolt
Being charged by a lion when you are on foot is extremely frightening. It is difficult to stop yourself from bolting, but that is likely to prompt an attack.
A lion charge is usually accompanied by a deep growling sound that reverberates through your very core. Most charges are mock charges, so you will usually be fine.
“Lions often make mock charges. They’re designed to frighten and involve lots of noise, teeth, pawing of dust on the ground and jerky running in a zig-zag motion. A full charge is fluid, straight and only has one growl. Either way, stand your ground, even though every part of you will tell you to run. The lion doesn’t want to fight you because it can’t afford to be injured, but if you run, it will chase you,” says Garth.
- If the lion charges at you, clap your hands and shout
In the event of a lion charge, clap your hands and shout and flail your arms about to make yourself look bigger.
“This (clapping your hands and shouting from your guts) will nearly always make it stop and turn. When it turns, stop clapping and shouting; walk away slowly towards an open area, never a thicket. If you see a tree or termite mound you can climb or hide behind, aim for that. The lion will usually leave you alone,” says Garth Hovell, an expert Safari guide.
- Keep your distance, especially in the case of mating lions or lionesses with cubs.
- Different circumstances trigger different behaviour. During courtship, male lions are often extremely aggressive and should not be approached, even if you are in a vehicle.
- A lioness with cubs is naturally protective and should be given lots of space. And being predominantly nocturnal, lions lose their inherent fear of humans at night and become much more dangerous and prone to attack.
- Be more cautious at night. Avoid camping in areas of high lion density – maintain a watch throughout the night if worried.
Writer’s note: These are suggestions by experts on what people should do when they encounter a lion; they are in no way a guaranteed guide to survival upon encounter with the big cats.