A zoo has come under fire of critics after it makes provision for children to play tug of war with lions after they have paid £15.
The challenge which was launched at the Dartmoor Zoo earlier this month is called the ‘human v beast challenge’.
Children as young as eight are allowed to take part in the challenge where four people pitted against one of the zoo’s big cats.
Parents are made to shell out £15 if they want their children to take part in the challenge.
An advertisement at the zoo’s Facebook page said that ‘this type of enrichment is very important to keep the cats fit and healthy’.
Competitors get to choose whether they want to compete with the zoo’s male tiger Dragan or its male lion Jasirir.
To get the ferocious animals to participate, meat is attached to a rope to bait them. When the animal responds and picks up the rope, the participants on the other end of the fence also pick up their rope to start the tug-of-war.
Speaking to the Daily Star, senior zoo keeper Simon Moore said this sort of experience is ‘essential’ for the animals.
He said: “In captivity, its essential for us to try to mimic the behaviours to create the best welfare possible.
“We do a lot of enrichment for the cats and this is just one type.”
The zoo’s CEO Benjamin Mee said the activity is common across other zoos and wildlife parks and that ‘the lions like it’.
“The public like it and it’s working well. It is regarded as really good enrichment for the animals, whether the public are involved or not”.
But animal rights activists have come down hard on the zoo, calling the challenge babaric.
In a tweet to Datmoor Zoo, The Born Free Foundation said: “@.DartmoorZoo to offer ‘Human vs Beast Experience’ this February half-term. Is a tug of war game with a lion or tiger really the way to inspire respect for these animals? RT to urge the zoo to rethink this! #Don’tBuyCaptivity #KeepWildlifeinTheWild.”
Another Twitter user @paulwrites said: “Are they living in medieval times? Whoever thought of this and backed it should think very carefully about demonising animals as commodities for profit.”