The Kingdom of Zion: Big cats in New Zealand
You could be forgiven for thinking that the Kingdom of Zion is in Jamaica, but we found it in New Zealand. Calie and I were returning from a conference (both not very well) when it caught our eye. You never know with tourist attractions. Sometimes, they can be tawdry and disappointing but sometimes you happen upon a gem.
And if you are a fan of the Chronicles of Narnia films (me not so much) or the CS Lewis books (which I avidly read to my children when they were younger) then it transpires that Aslan now lives in the Kingdom of Zion. And quite a lot of the film was shot in New Zealand, which I did not know.
The site has some history. Like many ventures conceived from obsession and emotion, it has had its share of financial ups and downs. In 2009 a keeper was mauled to death and many changes occurred. One was the strengthening of the enclosures.
From a photographers point of view it means shooting through wire all the time. I grumbled gently until one of the animals took a dislike to my pointing a long lens at it (the guide had warned me but I always know best). I had a very senior moment as the tiger charged me and was very grateful for the wire enclosure. These magnificent cats move rapidly and with deadly purpose. So I contented myself with taking photos and in some cases trying to include the enclosures in the story. By reducing the depth of focus I was able to blur the fence significantly. In some images, I incorporated it into the picture, to good effect, I think.
The tour is guided and our guide was informative, interesting and well-qualified. She patiently answered all of my daft questions and I got the feeling that I would run out of steam long before she ran out of good humour.
I have mixed feelings about animals in captivity but did not get a bad feeling from these animals. Like all cats, they spend a significant proportion of their time sleeping, only moving into action to hunt and kill as necessary. In some respects, I think they mind being protected and fed as much as the average tabby. I would think you need to visit and form your own view. The experience was thought-provoking and I went away with a deep respect for them.
I know this blog is beginning to sound like a travelogue advertising New Zealand but this is another gem that I would strongly suggest seeing if you get a chance!