An unlikely friendship of a KwaZulu-Natal man and a lion cuddling has been videoed and trending on social media.
Everyday, the lion manager of Glen Garriff Conservation in Harrismith Mike Thulani Mathalala gives seven year old lion Smokey a cuddle as sign that it was time to get off the road and back to camp so traffic can flow.
A “fraternal bond between man and beast” is what social media has dubbed their friendship. Smokey usually obstructs traffic flow and stubbornly refuses to move until Mike, his best friend, is by his side to give him a nice stroke and cuddle.
According to Suzanne Scott, from Glen Garriff Conservation, this was a daily occurrence.
Said Scott: “'The two have developed a bond so incredible since Smokey was a child. The camp gates are always opened allowing Smokey to enter and leave his camp as he pleases.
“By morning Smokey is on the road, waiting for Mike to give him a cuddle and take him back to camp. However, sometimes Smokey delays the process. We suspect that this is a ploy to get more attention from Mike,” she said.
Glen Garriff is home to 80 lions and aims to promote the study, learning and understanding of the species. Smokey has a girlfriend named Cember after the month she was born, which is December. They have 3 one year old cubs.