Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Ukrainian zoo owner will spend 35 days in a lions' cage

Not only does a Ukrainian mini-zoo owner and artist want to move in with a family of lions, he is also planning to stay with them long enough to get into their skin, broadcasting the “animality show” on the internet.

Aleksandr Pylyshenko, 40, wants to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by spending five weeks side by side with the animals and delivering a cub while there.

According to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Katya and Samson, a pair of African lions live in Aleksandr’s yard in the city of Vasilyevka in south-eastern Ukraine. Samson belongs to a very rare breed of Barbary lions, now believed to be extinct in the wild. There are only a few of them living in private zoos in Ukraine.

Katya has already given birth to nine lion cubs. Aleksandr told a local newspaper that following her last delivery she did not let Samson anywhere near her but did allow her owner to be near.
The experiment is due to start at the beginning of August. By that time Aleksandr plans to have a special cage with an enclosed bathroom constructed in the yard. In every other respect, though, conditions will be the same for both the lions and Pylyshenko.

Aleksandr pulls the lion’s tail whenever he wants
“The living conditions will be absolutely the same for Katya, Samson and me. We will sleep on wooden floorboards and have food given to us through bars,” said Aleksandr. “There will be four webcams planted in the cage. They will provide both experimental integrity and broadcast the ‘reality show’ on the internet,” he added.

During the experiment Aleksandr is going to continue his art work. The paintings created alongside the lions will be sold to raise money for a new zoo to improve the living conditions of Katya and Samson and to attract public attention to the life of wild animals in private Ukrainian zoos.

Pylyshenko’s affection for the big cats has made him a celebrity across Ukraine. “If tigers are 100 per cent cats, then lions are 100 per cent dogs – loyal and smart,” he told the local Our Town newspaper.

However, lions are not the only wild inhabitants of Aleksandr’s household. With a couple of obstinate lynxes and a cunning bear Mishka, the mini-zoo has become a local attraction.

The farmland where Aleksandr lives with his wife Elena and son Denis had previously sheltered other wild animals that had been abandoned by their owners. Among them were badgers, roe deer and even pumas.

Pylyshenko has already started building a separate house for volunteers and other people who are going to monitor his five-week experiment.

“I have made up my mind to spend 35 days in one cage with the lions in order to demonstrate that understanding between human beings and lions is easy to attain,” the zoo owner said. “It is about time modern society understood that peaceful co-existence is what everyone needs. I want people to cease arguing with each other and jostling for power,” he explained.