For most humans, a dog is their best friend. But for Frikkie Von Solms, that just won’t do. He has something better: a lion.
Frikkie has taken care of Zion since his birth 11 years ago. He was born in captivity but had to be separated from his mother, Simba as Frikkie fears the cub’s father would attack him, which is not unusual in lion prides.
The caretaker took the young cub with him and would even let Zion sleep beside him on his bed. Of course, now that Zion is big and weighs heavier, that rarely happens anymore. But Frikkie still make it a point to spend a lot of his time with his big cat.
Every day, Frikkie and Zion would walk around together. Because the lion is sensitive to noise, especially when he’s on the hunt, Frikkie has become accustomed to walking barefoot so as not to disturb Zion. While the lion hunts, Frikkie would be nearby, following closely and escorting Zion to and from his hunts in his car.
Frikkie and Zion shares a special bond. While the caretaker also has other animals under his care such as cheetahs, leopards and other lions, a soft spot in his heart is reserved only for the 11-year old jungle cat.
Because he was born in captivity, Zion possesses a timidity that is not seen in others born in the wild. Frikkie describes him as a “gentle giant” and trusts him completely. Zion has never attacked any human since his birth.
Frikkie considers it a privilege to have seen Zion grow and mature right under his nose. While people just see lions as regular animals, the caretaker begs to differ. He noted that lions, like humans, “have personalities” too. He believes that these animals also have a humorous side to them and could laugh.
For Frikkie, Zion is more than a lion. He is family.