Wellington lion girl ‘fearless’, says dad
Monday 9 Jan 2012 6:41 p.m.
By Emma Jolliff
A three-year-old Wellington girl cannot understand what all the fuss is about - after a lion tried to rip her to shreds at the zoo.
They came face-to-face through a wall of protective glass and the lion’s aggressive reaction was enough to make most flinch.
But Sofia Walker didn't.
Sofia likes to get up close to the animals at Wellington Zoo. So much so that she didn't flinch when eight-year-old lion Malik lunged at her through the glass.
According to her dad, Julian, Sofia's fearless.
Malik's food had been placed next to the glass and her dad thinks this may have triggered a reaction.
“Maybe it felt threatened that Sofia might try and take [the food] or that he preferred to eat her,” says Mr Walker.
The zoo's carnivore manager, Paul Horton, says Malik can be a bit moody.
“That's probably the second time I've seen him engaging with the visitors through the glass, but sometimes when we're working with him he can get a little bit stroppy.”
Mr Walker says his daughter and wife remained surprisingly calm through the interaction.
“I was surprised my wife still held the camera steady rather than lunging to get Sofia, but she obviously knew she was quite safe.”
Sofia was safe behind three centimetres of resin-bonded glass.
Mr Horton says the video made him really appreciate the animal's size.
“Working with something every day, then you see a close up like that where there's a big, fully-grown male lion next to a small person - he's big.”
But the family hadn't noticed the irony in the name of the street they live in: Mauldeth Place.
The zoo is one of Sofia's favourite places, and the close encounter has not deterred her from visiting.
She is even looking forward to celebrating her fourth birthday at the zoo next month.