A toddler was filmed by his mother during a visit to a zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio, laughing happily as he “played” with a young lioness through the glass enclosure.
The child’s inability to understand that the young lioness wasn’t just a cuddly pussy cat illustrates the saying that “ignorance is bliss.”
The child, innocently oblivious of the true nature of the encounter as a predator-potential prey interaction, giggles in delight as the lioness, likely salivating at the anticipation of a tasty snack, tries repeatedly to reach through the glass partition.
The little boy thinks the hungry lioness is playing a new kind of game. He shrieks in delight as the lioness swipes repeatedly at the glass to reach his face.
The toddler mimics the lioness’s frustrated attempts to snatch her lunch through the glass. While the lioness tries persistently to overcome the glass barrier, the little boy enjoys the close encounter with an overgrown muggy from behind the safety of the glass partition.
The boy turns to his mother, crying in delight, “I’m playing with him.”
As the lioness makes frantic efforts to reach through the glass, she opens her jaws and pushes it against the glass. The little boy moves closer and peers into feline maws equipped with deadly fangs.
The boy’s mother filming the child and the lion at “play” is confident of the protection of the glass. She appears more concerned about the child soiling his clothes in the puddle in front of the glass as he gets down on all fours for eye-level interaction with the big cat.
Without the glass partition separating them, a swipe by the lion with its sharp claws would have left the little boy’s face a bloody mess.
A video that shows a similar interaction between an infant and a hungry lioness at a zoo went viral on YouTube in April, 2011 (see below).
The Daily Mail reports that Craig Packer, an expert with the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, noted that lions often engage young prey playfully. Lions often get frisky with young prey easier to catch and devour.
“Predators generally treat calves, fawns and babies differently from adults because they are such easy prey. There’s no real chance of escape, so what’s the hurry?”
Hopefully, the little boy’s mother will keep the footage so that he can review the encounter with deeper insight when he is older and wiser.