And so to the lion enclosure. Lions are great, aren’t they? Surely they must be the bee’s knees, the cat’s bollocks, the mane men, the pride of the park? Well… not really; the first few minutes I spent in their enclosure, slowly looping around the track, was about as exciting as watching my own domestic cats rolling around and licking their balls, albeit on a slightly larger scale. OK, I did see a couple of lions having sex, but that didn’t last long. Certainly not long enough for me to take advantage of my nascent hard-on (To wank along to the scene outside, of course. Not to run out there and join in a giant lion gang-bang. I’m not a pervert, for Christ’s sake!).
I could relate to the lion, though. Mid-way through the sex the female got bored, ejected his catty cock from her liony labia, and staggered off. She slumped down on a patch of grass fifteen feet away from him, and started to have a kip. I don’t know if lions are capable of feeling dejected, but this guy looked pretty fucked off and miserable. No wonder the males go out on the savanna and kill things. It’s not to eat: lions are actually vegetarians. They just disembowel springboks to make themselves feel manly again after their wives have booed off their shagging skills.
In fact, hang on. That’s not even true, is it? The males do a tiny bit of the hunting, but it’s the lionesses that do the bulk of the running, ripping and killing. So the lions are crap in bed, don’t provide food for the dinner table, and just sit around all day growling at other guys and preening their big hair and doing their nails. I think the pandas might have some competition in the 2013 ‘Who’s Up For A Bit of An Extinction?’ contest.
I drew my car up alongside a group of lions that were sleeping on the grass and tried to coax them into action by burring the window down and blasting up the volume on the radio. It sort of worked. One of them waggled its ears a wee bit. Hardly the stuff of Attenborough. I don’t know what I was expecting, to be honest. A full-on lion rave?
Luckily, there was excitement – and danger – on the horizon. Two lions, who had been relaxing next to a cluster of tree stumps further up the enclosure, started stalking towards my car. Their stares were cold and unblinking, and I’m sure I detected a twitch of primal hunger on their lips. Then, just as my heart started thumping in my chest, they meandered lazily past me and flopped down next to the other lions who were sleeping at the other side of my car, and joined them in a kip. You lied to me, Disney. You said these cunts were fun, and could talk, and form religions and shit. But they’re crap.
If only I’d had the presence of mind to smuggle in a couple of sheep from the field outside I could really have livened things up – given a few children one or two interesting things to say to their psychiatrists in later life.
‘Now, Jeannie, can you trace all of the recent bad events in your life back to one discernible root cause, perhaps in your childhood?’
Jeannie rocks in her seat, grasping her knees with white knuckles, saliva foaming at the edges of her mouth. ‘Yesssss,’ she stammered. ‘The day …the…lovely… sheep died.’
So, disappointingly, the lions did fuck all. You can hardly blame them, I suppose. If a bus-load of lions had visited my flat on a typical Sunday afternoon I doubt they would have witnessed anything more exciting than the odd bit of dish-washing, ball-scratching or half-hearted masturbation. Actually, that’s not true. I probably wouldn’t have been doing the dishes.
Still, why would a bus-load of lions come to my flat? And what maniac would transport them there? Somebody needs to answer these questions.
Have you ever heard a lion’s roar? I mean, not on TV: in a safari park, or in the wild? When your bowels can pick up the sound first-hand? Later on that day, when I was pottering about elsewhere in the park, I heard it. Rumbling, growling, roaring. Like it was coming from everywhere in the park at once in one rectum-rocking symphony of primal terror. I was glad to be hearing that sound in the safety of an open-prison for beasts, rather than out on the savanna with a packed lunch and a spear.
The next enclosure contained many bison. But who, apart from other bison, gives much of a fuck about bison? Moving on…
Ah, the sea lion show. Now you’re talking. I never fully realised the unbridled happiness and joy an animal could bring to my heart until I saw those slippery guys cynically exploited by the promise of food into performing hilarious tricks. The trainer claimed that the sea lions always enjoy themselves while putting on the show, and I guess the club-shy bastards’d better show it if they ever want to eat again this millennium. To be honest, though, the faux-cynicism I’m affecting here could find no purchase-hold in my head or heart during the ten or so minutes I was privileged to watch those two adorable creatures at work.
While they were sitting still and awaiting instruction, their heads bobbed and rocked about in a figure of eight motion, which brought to mind a sub-aquatic Stevie Wonder. When active, they darted and dived into and out of the water, balanced balls on their snouts, imitated seals, called on command, climbed stairs and jumped off of high boards. I loved them!
But possibly the greatest thing one of the creatures did, something that made me laugh uncontrollably each time it happened – that I think is one of the simplest yet best things I have ever seen an animal be trained to do – was clap! It clapped! It sat on its podium, threw back its head and slapped its flippers together like a mad-thing. And my face lit-up like a Syrian government building each time. Usually the sea lions did it in tandem with the audience, which somehow made it even funnier. Perhaps I’ve found my happy place – what’s the sound of one sea-lion clapping? I don’t care. It’s brilliant! Still, there’s room for improvement: if they can somehow teach them to smoke it’ll be fucking awesome.
I’ve heard it said that it’s good for the mental faculties to absorb at least one new fact a day, so yours is coming up a few sentences from now. If you discover that you already know the fact I’m about to share with you, then go and open the dictionary and find a word you’ve never heard of and learn it, so you don’t feel left out.
Ahem, here goes: the way to tell the difference between a seal and a sea lion is by looking at the ears. Apparently the seal has internal ears, and the sea lion has protruding ears. This is fantastic, for a number of reasons, but most crucially: we now know that a sea lion can do an even better Stevie Wonder impression than we first imagined.
OUR JOURNEY AROUND THE SAFARI PARK CONCLUDES THIS WEEKEND.