How Lion Taming Works

Why do tamed lions attack?

Let's face it. A circus or animal act isn't natural habitat for a lion or tiger. When was the last time you saw a lion on the African plains leap through a flaming hoop? Most animal advocacy groups state that animal attacks occur because of animal rage or frustration. Wild animals each have different needs related to diet, socialization, environment, living conditions and climate. Yet most exotic animals are all kept under the same conditions. So it should be no surprise that an animal one day acts unpredictably. Since 1990, captive wild cats have attacked more than 110 people, many fatally [source: Dawn].

Most organizations that keep exotic animals claim to use humane training techniques, but some activist groups claim that, behind closed doors, animals may be poked, prodded or hit [source: PETA]. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) signed the Animal Welfare Act into law in 1966, and the USDA routinely inspects circuses, zoos and other animal handling organizations for violations. All reports are available to the public via their Web site.

Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, once stressed that you can train a wild animal, but you can never tame a wild animal. And famed lion tamer Gunther Gebel-Williams used to say that a wild animal is like a loaded gun -- it can go off at any time [source: CNN].

Perhaps it's the loaded gun factor that has attracted audiences to lion taming acts for so many years. If the beast weren't wild, would we be on the edge of our seats?

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