African Lion Safari

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African Lion Safari
Logo afrianLionSafari.jpg
African lion safari animals car.jpg
Visitors in the reserves
Date opened August 22, 1969 [1]
Location Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Coordinates 43°20′28″N 80°10′48″W / 43.341°N 80.180°W / 43.341; -80.180Coordinates: 43°20′28″N 80°10′48″W / 43.341°N 80.180°W / 43.341; -80.180
Land area 300 hectares (740 acres)
No. of animals >1,000 [1]
No. of species >100 [1]
Memberships CAZA,[2] WAZA,[3] IEF, and IAATE [4]

African Lion Safari is a family-owned safari park situated in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, about 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of Toronto. Though situated in Hamilton city limits, it is located near Cambridge, Ontario. It includes more than 1,000 animals, representing over 100 species of mammals and birds from across the globe. Guests may tour seven game reserves (with a total area of about 740 acres (300 hectares)) traversed via tour buses or the visitors' own vehicles where animals roam freely in large contained areas. Accompanying the game reserves is a large walking section where hundreds of exotic birds and primates, as well as the park's herd of Asian elephants, are on display.

It is an accredited member of the CAZA, and is also a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) as well as the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators (IAATE).

It is open from the first weekend in May to the weekend of Canadian Thanksgiving in October and has an on-site bus in which to tour the park, but public transportation to the park itself is limited.


This safari park was founded by Gordon Debenham "Don" Dailley, a retired Canadian Army colonel, and opened its doors on August 22, 1969. Dailley initially partnered with the Chipperfield family from England to purchase four farms in the Rockton, Ontario area totaling 250 hectares (620 acres). He bought out the Chipperfields in the early 1970s.[5] Dailley's sons Don and James, along with their sister Ginny, took over operations in 1989, following their father's death. It remains privately owned, and the only significant feature was the drive-through reserve. In 1971, the park began working with Asian elephants, and in 1985 they started to make a concentrated effort to breed Asian elephants. Over the years, successful breeding of 30 endangered species and 20 threatened species has occurred in the park.



Common eland visiting tourist

On any of the seven reserves, visitors are caged in their car and the animals roam in large enclosures that range from 2 to 20 hectares (4.9 to 49.4 acres).[1] Since the reserves are inhabited by wild animals, all feeding is prohibited and visitors must keep doors and windows of their vehicles closed. Vehicles on which openings cannot be closed or where safety is otherwise compromised (for instance, by large cracks in the windshield) will not be allowed into the reserves. Visitors can always see the reserves via the air-conditioned tour buses. Since the potential for damage to vehicles from the animals exists, a slip road is provided for all guests who wish to avoid the monkeys and any potential damage to their vehicles.

Lions resting

In the Nairobi Sanctuary, visitors can see Watusi cattle, llama, European white stork, Egyptian goose, crested screamer, and East African crowned crane. The reserve consists of a large grassy field.

Simba Lion Country is home to African lions in their normal yellow color. The reserve consists of, like the other reserves such as the Nairobi Sanctuary, a large grassy field. This reserve is notable because it has a structure made out of rocks so the lions can rest.

Timbavati Lion Country is home to white lions, also known as Timbavati lions. This reserve also has a rock structure for the lions to rest or play on.

Duma Cheetah Preserve is home to cheetahs. This reserve features several pens where the cheetahs live either separately or grouped. The cheetahs have small house-like structures that they can rest in if they wish.

Wankie Bushland Trail is home to olive baboons, bongo and miniature zebu. The baboons' tower is a house and a playground for them.

Rhino grazing at the African Lion Safari

The Rocky Ridge Veldt includes Rothschild's giraffe, Grant's zebra, wildebeest, eland, Barbary sheep, ostrich, white rhinoceros, addax, and scimitar-horned oryx. This reserve is grassy with a hut for the wildebeest.

The Eurasia reserve includes Himalayan tahr, yak, nilgai, mouflon, sika deer, fallow deer, Père David's deer, emu, and Sicilian donkey. In smaller fenced areas on the periphery of this reserve are enclosures for Turkmenian (Bukharan) markhor, Sichuan takin, Bactrian camel, sarus crane, red kangaroo, and red-necked wallaby. The reserve is grassy.

The North America reserve is home to American bison, North American elk, and fallow deer. This reserve is grassy.


The African Lion Safari offers two tours for no additional charge; the first one is by boat around a lake whose islands are inhabited by various primates of the world, and the second by train through a natural wetland.

There is a cruise ship called the African Queen. On the African Queen, visitors will see black-handed spider monkey, white-handed gibbon, siamang, black-and-white ruffed lemur, marabou stork, southern ground hornbill, ring-tailed lemur, robust black spider monkey, pink-backed pelican, and black swan.[6]

The Nature Boy is a scenic railway that travels through natural forest where visitors will see native wildlife and several exotic species such as Bactrian camels and reindeer.

Petting Zoo

Walking area[edit]

Parrots and toucans displayed outside the walking area of the park include African grey parrot, scarlet macaw, blue-and-yellow macaw, military macaw, great green macaw, hyacinth macaw, red-and-green macaw, Catalina macaw, white cockatoo, salmon-crested cockatoo, galah, Alexandrine parakeet, princess parrot, channel-billed toucan, and white-throated toucan.

Birds of prey displayed in the park include bald eagle, golden eagle, African fish eagle, tawny eagle, peregrine falcon, red-tailed hawk, great black hawk, Harris' hawk, ferruginous hawk, snowy owl, Eurasian eagle-owl, barn owl, spectacled owl, great horned owl, burrowing owl, marabou stork, black vulture, king vulture, turkey vulture, cinereous vulture, Andean condor, steppe eagle, lanner falcon, and American kestrel.

Other animals exhibited in the walk-through area include Asian elephant, American flamingo, collared peccary, black-capped squirrel monkey, Indian flying fox, alpaca, Indian peafowl, pygmy goat, African pied crow, tufted capuchin, screamer, violet turaco, Victoria crowned pigeon, and laughing kookaburra.

Elephants swimming

Breeding programs[edit]

The park is involved in the International SSPs for Asian elephants, cheetahs, white rhinos, and cinereous vultures. It has provided captive bred barn owls, burrowing owls, trumpeter swans, ferruginous hawks, and a bald eagle to reintroduction programs for release into the wild.

The park currently claims to have the most successful Asian elephant breeding program in North America, and in 2008 became home to the first third generation Asian elephant in North America. It has received several CAZA awards, including those recognizing outstanding achievements in the care of both cheetahs and giraffes.

In 2010, "Jake" became African Lion Safari's first successful Asian elephant birth from an artificial insemination, and the first birth of this kind in Canada.[7]

Demonstration of Asian elephants skills by staff


A demonstration against animals in captivity was held at African Lion Safari on Saturday, May 4, 2013. Animal rights activists from the Grassroots Ontario Animal Liberation Network staged a protest during the Safari's opening day to raise awareness about issues surrounding the use of exotic animals for entertainment and to expose the park as a for-profit business based on animal exploitation. Activists also claimed that the use of bull hooks during elephant shows at the park were cruel and archaic.


Beyond the displays, the Lion Safari provides regularly scheduled shows featuring their collection of raptors (birds of prey), parrots and Asian elephants. The Asian elephants are also led through the park twice daily for a swim in full view of the public. Other attractions include elephant and pony rides, a petting zoo, a large wet-play area, a playground, a discovery centre and multiple food and souvenir shops.

In the movies[edit]

Animals from African Lion Safari have appeared in many movies and television shows. Recently, Safari elephants were seen in The Love Guru.


In November 1989, Omar Norton, a 21-year-old part-time employee and biology student at McMaster University was crushed to death by a five-tonne bull elephant named Tusko while trying to break up a fight between it and another elephant. [8][9]

In April 1996, a couple driving through the game reserve were mauled by a Bengal tiger. They later launched a lawsuit against the park which took several years to resolve. Finally in January 2005, a court awarded them and their families $2.5 million.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d "African Lion Safari". African Lion Safari. Archived from the original on 23 July 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  2. ^ "Members' Directory, Accredited Institutions". Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Archived from the original on 12 January 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2010. 
  3. ^ "Zoos and Aquariums of the World". World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Archived from the original on 13 August 2010. Retrieved 30 July 2010. 
  4. ^ "Our Mission". African Lion Safari. Archived from the original on 23 July 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  5. ^ MacLeod, Meredith (17 July 2006). "Elephant walk; Early years were lean for African Lion Safari: Now it's a $50m miracle". The Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  6. ^ "Attractions". African Lion Safari. Archived from the original on 22 July 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2010-11-29. "NEW FOR 2010 - First Artificially Inseminated Elephant Born in Canada at African Lion Safari" retrieved November 29th, 2010
  8. ^ "Elephant's fate hangs on inquest in trainer's death," Leslie Papp, Toronto Star, November 22, 1989, p. A12,
  9. ^ "Owner outraged: Labor Ministry persecuting Lion Safari, Dailley says," Kitchener-Waterloo Record, June 27, 1991, p. B3
  10. ^ Cowles v. Balac, 2005 CanLII 2038 (ON S.C.)[permanent dead link], accessed November 5, 2006

External links[edit]