This is Not a Tibetan Mastiff: Big Five Part One

If you regularly read the news, my title just told you what photo I’m posting today.

For those who haven’t heard the absurdity, a Chinese Zoo was found to be (temporarily) scamming visitors by posing regular animals as exotic ones. An “African Lion” at the zoo was videotaped barking, because the zoo had replaced it with a large, hairy breed of dog called a Tibetan Mastiff.

The funniest report I’ve seen on it is by the wry and charming Anderson Cooper. Here’s the link to his video about it on RidicuList.

So yes, as some of you guessed, THIS is not a Tibetan Mastiff:

Anderson Cooper Tibetan Mastiff Chinese Zoo best places to see lions South Africa
A young male lion along the Lower Sabie River in Kruger National Park. As you can see, it’s not super easy to spot lions in the bush, even in winter.

Anderson Cooper Tibetan Mastiff Chinese Zoo best places to see lions South Africa

This young, male African lion, along with two other young lions and one lioness (see photos below) were lying together under shady trees on the edge of the Lower Sabie River during our second day in Kruger National Park. I will only be posting locations for certain animals. When we get to the rhino, I’ll tell you we saw it on Mars before I’ll tell you where in Kruger to look. But we’ll talk more about that again on rhino day. For today, let’s enjoy this often favorite of “The Big Five.”

Anderson Cooper Tibetan Mastiff Chinese Zoo best places to see lions South Africa
This handsome guy was really difficult to see, but in Kruger, you accept the shot you have, or risk that “perfect” shot being your last.

Anderson Cooper Tibetan Mastiff Chinese Zoo best places to see lions South Africa

We’ve been told that this is not a typical lineup, having three males and a female together, and the speculation is that since these three males are just getting in their beautiful manes, it’s possible the female is their mother and that within the year these guys will be on their separate ways.

Anderson Cooper Tibetan Mastiff Chinese Zoo best places to see lions South Africa
Seriously, as you’ll be able to see from the close-up, these two lions were looking directly at me as I took photos. And I was in our bakkie shooting at full zoom through a less-than-paw-width crack in the top of the window. A good friend of ours here in South Africa made us watch a video of a tourist who got out to take a better photo. The gruesome footage of his death is his YouTube legacy.

Anderson Cooper Tibetan Mastiff Chinese Zoo best places to see lions South Africa

As you can see from the photos, there is a lot of undergrowth in Kruger National Park. Visitors are not allowed out of vehicles except within designated areas. These areas are not always fenced in, however. After doing our best to grab some photos of this group from a safe distance at a pull-out on the road, we took a break at a rest area just down the road, and as we were sitting and eating lunch, realized there really was nothing but hillside and bush between us and those lions just a couple kilometers upriver. Thankfully, they did have a well-fed, impala-gorged look about them, so we just tried to relax and eat lunch, eyeballing the large croc in the river in front of us and the vervet monkeys filling the trees above us and staring down our coldcuts.

Anderson Cooper Tibetan Mastiff Chinese Zoo best places to see lions South Africa

Many, many posts to come from our amazing Kruger trip, including a new weekly series I’m going to post titled “Dear South Africa” with my own tongue-in-cheek (and sometimes serious) suggestions for accommodating (and making bank off) spoiled, American tourists.

Hope you’ll join me for the next several weeks in looking at photos of not only “the Big Five” but (wait for it…) the BABY Big Five as well! This may be the “off season” here in South Africa, as winter comes to a close, but it was apparently enough springtime in the bush for a lot of wildlife.


Pop quiz, readers: Do you know (without *Quacking!) which animals of Africa are considered “The Big Five” and how they were designated “The Big Five”?

I have ONE Kruger postcard, all ready with an international stamp, to mail to one of you commenters! Please don’t look up the answer. Guess. Be creative. You can be right, wrong, funny, clever, poetic, or slick, as long as you comment! (And I just gave you one out of the five, today!)

Love, Marla


*Marla now tries Quacking instead of Googling for her internet searches, since Google is part of those massively invasive privacy concerns in the U.S. right now, and Duck Duck Go is so far an anonymous search engine. She really doesn’t need the government knowing how often she searches oddities like, “How long do African lions mate?” or “Miley Cyrus is an adult now, get over it or don’t watch” or “Girls become women and women make choices you don’t agree with. Make that a lesson for your kids, and stop shaming.” (Marla enters lengthy search terms!)
Now I’m probably really on a watch list. Or maybe I’m just frustrated because I didn’t get on the Google Glass bandwagon before my trip to Kruger. πŸ˜‰

12 thoughts on “This is Not a Tibetan Mastiff: Big Five Part One

  1. Oh, pretty kitties. I cannot tell you how I laughed at the reports of the Mastiff masquerading as a lion. Sad, but really ridiculous as well. I am a great lover of Mastiffs and was owned by a British Mastiff for years, Miles was a brindled, 236 lb love. If you have never see these great hearted cannines, they walk like big cats sleek and smooth with hip action. When I saw this report all I could think of was Miles.

  2. Well, I know my guesses are only right three out of five because they are the same as Heather’s. Loved the pix and text!

  3. Another one of your brilliant post… I was waiting for this one, because I was sure you would have something super interesting to write once you get back from Kruger… love the photos… you know almost everyday I wake up in the morning and think to myself, “gosh, I am REALLY in AFRICA!!!”, seeing these photos actually makes me realize what I would have missed hadn’t I urged Rahul to take up the offer when it came on a sunny June last year… glad we have made the choice to come to SA…

    Ok I am guessing the Big Five is Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo… if I get this wrong, I should be burnt alive at the stake, because this is all I have been hearing, since I came out here… and no I didn’t see the answers… honestly… Hoping and praying for a lot more of these amazing posts…. I love you, sincerely I do…!!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  4. Oooooo guessing game! But first, those pictures are awesome and I’m super jealous!
    Ok, Elephant, lion, rhino, cheetah and hippo?
    As for the reason, I’m guessing similar to hmillerprice and saying it probably comes from big game hunters in Africa for the game that was most deadly/prized or something to that effect.

    1. Thanks for commenting! Three out of five. Rose, come visit then you won’t need to be jealous and I’ll have someone to lift with at the gym for a couple weeks. πŸ™‚
      I’ll wait longer to answer regarding the reason.

  5. The Big Five: John, Paul, George, Ringo, and their monkey.
    Just kidding: Lions, Rhinos, Giraffes, Elephants, and Zebras. Called the Big Five because they are the animals that draw the most attention/big game hunters want to get. (I really have no idea. I just wanted to say hi and I’m enjoying living vicariously through you!)

    1. Ha. I LOVE the Beatles answer! You got three out of five correct, and I’ll hold off on replying yes or no to the reason until all the guesses are in. πŸ˜‰
      Hello to you, Heather! Hope you’re working on creating that blog to go along with that awesome book you’re going to publish!

  6. Love it!! I enjoy all your Blogs.. I will not guess at the Giveaway since I live here and know the answer LOL

    1. Thanks, ShaMarie, and thanks for commenting and not giving it away for the guessers! I’m curious as to what they come up with, if they’ll brave an answer! πŸ™‚

      I know when I originally heard the term, I came up with only three of the correct five animals. My other two were based on a different ranking. πŸ˜‰

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