Living among lions takes pride of place

Updated: 2013-09-25 10:00

By Deng Zhangyu (China Daily)

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Living among lions takes pride of place

Chen Jianxing works for Tanzania National Parks. The job enables him to watch lions freely. Photos provided by Chen Jianxing

Chen Jianxing turned his boyhood fascination with these majestic creatures into a full-time job, writes Deng Zhangyu.

When Chen Jianxing stops his off-road vehicle, about five meters away from the lioness that he has named Lisa, she comes close, rubbing her body against his car to scratch itchy places. Sometimes, the lioness Chen has tracked for years even lies under his vehicle to avoid the scorching sun, leaving only her tail hanging out.

Living among lions takes pride of place

Chen's off-road vehicle has no roof. For Lisa, it's really easy to jump onto the car and attack the driver. But Chen knows Lisa never will.

"Lions seldom attack humans. They don't eat humans," says Chen, who has passionately tracked the lion pride Lisa is in for two years. From the end of 2010 to 2012, Chen closely followed the Manze pride along Lake Manze in the Selous Game Reserve of southern Tanzania.

Chen is a diehard lion lover. It's common for him to spend several days and nights watching the Manze pride. He watched how a lion from other prides defeated the lion king in the Manze pride to become the new king and how Lisa leads the Manze pride to jointly kill their prey.

"I feel quite comfortable to stay with the pride," says the 35-year-old.

Usually, lions sleep more than 20 hours a day. Only in the mornings and evenings do they move around and hunt for their prey. Chen says when the lions sleep under a tree, he also sleeps on his open car several meters away.

Chen has lived in Tanzania for seven years. He now works for the Tanzania National Parks. The job enables him to watch lions freely without any limitation. Previously, he worked as a diplomat at the Chinese embassy in Tanzania.

"Chen loves lions. It's rare to combine one's job with one's interest. He is a pure idealist," says Allen Kijazi, director general of Tanzania National Parks.

Watching lions in Tanzania was Chen's childhood obsession. When he was in primary school, he loved watching TV programs about nature and wildlife and fell in love with the lions from Tanzania, although all he learned was from documentaries and TV programs.

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