Story of woman coming close to lion at Jungle Cat World in Clarington more growl than bite

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Published March 20, 2023 at 9:05 am

A Quebec woman walking her dog in Orono earlier this month got a surprise when she had a close encounter with a lion on the other side of a chain-link fence.

The woman posted a video of the March 8 encounter on TikTok and Facebook but appeared to be unaware she was walking by Jungle Cat World wildlife park, which has been located off Concession Road 6 in north Clarington since 1983.

The video shows the lion running along one side of a fence while the woman’s dog barks at it. It attracted plenty of attention on social media, garnering several thousand shares on Facebook and likes on TikTok before it was taken down.

There were plenty of comments as well, including those who expressed fear about a big cat park so close to residences. “Is that even legal?” and “What If?”

Most of the posters were supportive, however, and chose to ponder why the woman was walking her unleashed dog near the park in the first place. “Why is this is a story? Women walked next to what is essentially a zoo and saw a lion,” and “Apparently she can’t read the Jungle Cat World sign.”

The video also attracted the attention of World Animal Protection, an international animal advocacy group with a Canadian office in Toronto. Spokesperson Michelle Hamers said in a media report the lion enclosure had been cited by the organization before for its low fences – lions can jump 12 feet – and lack of secondary security measures. She also appeared to assume the lion in the video had escaped its enclosure – “We don’t know what enclosure it escaped from or how it escaped” – though the park was inspected five days after the incident by Animal Welfare Services and found to be in compliance.

World Animal Protection visited 11 different private wildlife parks – commonly called ‘roadside zoos’ – in the summer of 2022, including Jungle Cat World and the Oshawa Zoo, and found several issues, including the alleged “poor design and construction of enclosures,” which could lead to escapes and inappropriate interaction with people. None of the issues raised were venue specific, however.

Jungle Cat World. The lion enclosure is at the top of the image with the orange symbol

Ontario is the last major jurisdiction in Canada that has not licensed or restricted the keeping or use of exotic wild animals in captivity, leaving regulation to the individual municipality, and World Animal Protection wants the Ontario government to:

  • Require enforcement officers to conduct comprehensive reviews of all Ontario zoos to identify violations of the PAWS Act standards and take appropriate measures to address them
  • Develop and implement a mandatory licencing program for all facilities, businesses, and institutions housing native and exotic wild animals
  • Implement a possession, breeding and acquisition ban on facilities, businesses and institutions that do not meet licencing standards
  • Prohibit the use of wild animals for entertainment as well as the possession, keeping and breeding of dangerous and/or problematic wild animals by private individuals

Jungle Cat World has not spoken for the record about the incident but has denied the allegations, saying the lion was behind two fences and there was no threat to public safety.

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