Reporter sees funny side of lion urinating on him
It would start as any ordinary day; a banana on the way to the office from the car park, a piccolo latte, no sugar, and a shuffle to the chiefs of staff desk, where the yarns de jour are handed over to waiting reporters.
But today’s yarn would be different. And wet. And not just because it was raining.
I was being sent to the site of a new sanctuary for animals in Sydney’s west, called Zambi Wildlife Retreat. It’s a place where large zoo, circus and performing animals, who are entering their autumnal years, can spend them in what is Australia’s first retirement home for exotic creatures.
Created by volunteers and funded by those circuses and zoos who utilised their talents, along with a raft of local and high profile business entities such as Westpac, Zambi provides bespoke living quarters for some of nature’s wildest animals.
After passing two macaws that were rescued after being listed for sale on a local classifieds website, the first compound we would visit with Donna Wilson, the driving force behind Zambi, would be the newly laid escarpment and waterfall for 18-year-old Koda the puma.
In the wild, Koda’s lifespan would have been much shorter, but her career before the cameras had seen her reach voting age.
Koda was taking advantage of the freshly laid lawn, to park herself beneath the shade of a tree, yawning contently as we paused to observe.
The setting for tigers Zoran and Mishka would be larger still. Zoran would be found nestled on the platform of a thatched Bali hut; Mishka was content to spy on us from beneath a clutch of growing bamboo.
The pool with waterfall in which they swim during summer was empty, except for Zoran’s occasional expeditions to paw at the splashing ripples from a specially created platform.
Zoran is a long term resident of Donna’s work; he would come into her care when he was six weeks old, after being rejected by his mother in a zoo breeding program.
Then, it was time to meet Korvu.
Korvu is a 15-year-old lion, recently retired from Lennon’s Circus along with his two wives Keeara and Maisy.
We found Korvu lolling in his temporary digs, watching as workmen began pouting the footings for his new kingdom, a process aided with funding by the circus.
On first sight of Donna, Korvu would wander over towards her, placing his flank against the cyclone fence for a gentle rub and cooing words from Donna.
At this stage, Donna and I are crouched, talking about Korvu’s future home, and how effective he appeared to be as site foreman.
Then he swung his bum around, and lifted his tail.
Even a city boy with no jungle experience could read the signs that Korvu was planning to make his mark. Unlike my more experienced interviewee, who immediately swung to the side, I began to raise myself from my haunches to evacuate.
Even as I sit here typing, it’s hard to remember if I was too slow, or whether Korvu had practised aim. I think the latter.
Within milliseconds, a well-trained stream of urine would strike me fair in the gob. This was no shot fired off in haste, in the hope of hitting the body mass. This was mercurial and practised, accurate and targeted.
It would leave me gasping, with rivulets of lion piss dripping down my glasses and chin.
After recovering from the “hilarity” of the incident, Donna explained that I was viewed as a possible rival, and that Korvu was making sure that the only smell that would be travelling around him, would be him.
However, I did find that one of his wives suddenly found me attractive.
For those wondering, and unlike their domestic cousin, lion urine is a much more benign substance than Vasse Felix, far gentler on the nose, with a bouquet of burnt popcorn. However, that doesn’t easier the embarrassment when you’re rinsing your mouth and mopping down your suit jacket.
But I did have fun explaining the stain this morning to the dry cleaner.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019