In the late 1980s, staff at the Longleat Safari Park in southern England were growing increasingly frustrated with guests who refused to adhere to safety regulations. At the time, the park's drive-though lion enclosure housed 42 of the big cats – enough to comfortably polish off the human contents of a four-door sedan should the opportunity present itself. But despite the obvious dangers, many of the guests who travelled through the lion enclosure were caught hopping out of their cars to take bathroom breaks, fix flat tyres, or even, in one instance, to enjoy a quiet picnic. So the BBC put together a safety demonstration to deter the rule-breakers. The resulting video is both hilarious and horrifying.


Humanoid dummies were carefully positioned in front of an apparently broken-down vehicle. Daniel the Dummy was sporting a navy blue suit while his partner Danielle looked fetching in a pink blouse, knee-high white skirt and heels (in the 80s, folks dressed up for a visit to the safari park it seems). The lions were initially wary of the odd couple until a bold male nipped Daniel's navy jacket and – convinced that the dummy was not about to fight back – snatched poor ol' Dan by the abdomen and trotted off proudly, the dummy's limbs dropping off as he went. Danielle suffered an even more gruesome end: a gentle nudge from a lioness sent her tumbling to the ground where, upon impact, her head popped right off and her torso split in two. Her legs were quickly carried away.

The video, while a touch more hilarious than intended, highlights a long history of irresponsible wildlife viewing by humans. Lions kept in enclosures are notoriously problematic and will often climb on top of vehicles or chew on tyres and bumpers. This, coupled with visitors who refuse to adhere to the rules, can lead to disaster. "Zoos and safari parks are never completely risk-free places and it is unreasonable to expect that they would be,” Sarah Wolfensohn, a professor of animal welfare at the University of Surrey, told the Guardian last year. Regulations in safari parks and game reserves serve to protect both people and animals. When they are ignored the results are often tragic.

In January, a man was mauled to death by lions at a zoo in India after he scaled a 12-foot wall and entered their enclosure, while in 2016, a woman in China was attacked by a tiger after she alighted from her vehicle in an animal park. She survived, but another woman who rushed to her aid was fatally wounded. In South Africa, a country that is home to several controversial lion parks, stories abound of injury and death as a result of irresponsible behaviour by either tourists or park owners.

Even cats of a wilder guild have been recorded investigating unfenced campsites or getting up close with vehicles.

We should heed the warning of the powerfully 80s BBC clip. Don't be a dummy. Give the lions their space.