Lions can be undeniably dangerous but they are far from monsters. Just meet Zion, a gentle 11-year-old African lion being raised by Frikkie Von Solms, a 69-year-old lion caretaker from South Africa. Over the last 11-years these two have formed a solid friendship, becoming the best of pals.
Zion was born in captivity to a beautiful lioness named Simba. Unfortunately, there were fears that Zion’s father would kill him and so he was relocated as a cub to the very man that would become his best friend for life. Von Solms and Zion have spent a lot of time together over the last 11-years, during which time Zion has grown into a gentle giant.
Zion is so calm and mild mannered he doesn’t even like the sound of shoes clomping on the ground. Out of respect, Von Solms always removes his shoes before taking his big lion pal out for walks. Von Solms revealed in an interview with the Daily Mail, “It was a once in a lifetime experience to grow up with him and learn and live with him through all of the stages of being a lion.”
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Lions have a ferocious reputation, which is why many people don’t ever have the chance to get to know one. Von Solms says, “People talk about lions like they are just lions but they have personalities, they have humour and laugh. Zion is a gentle giant. He has never attacked humans and I trust him completely.”
After being separated from his mother as a little cub, Zion needed someone to be there for him, to help raise him, and love him. Zion was lucky to find Von Solms, who has been his lead caretaker and best buddy for the last 11-years.
Von Solms is a great caretaker, he even walks barefoot across the hot sand in order to make Zion happy since he hates the sounds shoes make when they clomp against the ground.
Over the years Zion has grown, and grown, and grown some more! Each step of the way has brought new challenges and excitement. Yet, as Zion grows stronger and more powerful the bond between man and lion continues to flourish.
The pair even goes out hunting together now, although hilariously they haven’t caught anything yet. Instead, their hunting outings typically end in hugs and kisses. While Zion and his surrogate dad spend a great deal of time together, he also lives with other lions, cheetahs, and leopards, all of which Von Solms looks after as well.
The pair are so close Zion often rides around in the back of Von Solms truck. But that’s not all; the pair has also shared the same bed before!
Von Solms is a professional caretaker of larger and often dangerous animals. He has successfully raised and cared for 19 lions, tigers and cheetahs. Working with so many big cats makes his friendship with Zion that much more valuable, as Zion is different than the others. Von Solms says Zion “is special because of the bond we share. I learned so much from him.”
While going for walks, both of them barefoot, Von Solms has a habit of affectionately holding onto Zion’s tail.
Zion sure is cute, but that doesn’t mean you should go looking for a lion friend to call your own. Lions can be incredibly dangerous. Still, you can’t judge a book by its cover, and clearly meeting Von Solms and Zion proves lions have the same capacity for love and friendship as humans.
Zion isn’t the only sweet lion out there, you’ll be shocked when you see what happens after this tiny dog wandered into a lion’s cage!