Mumbai − Lions once roamed from the southern tip of Africa all the way to northwestern India. But today, their populations have declined drastically in Africa. Since 1975, 80-90% of the African lion population has been decimated, due to hunting, habitat loss, and disease. Several efforts are on-going to help save these animals, which play an important role in the food chain and Africa’s ecosystem.

There is a place in Africa where you can walk with lions. Where you can be part of the pride. And this is exactly what a group of volunteers are doing, as they take part in a unique conservation programme at Zimbabwe’s Antelope Park. Animal Planet’s new series Lodging With Lions follows the volunteers as they venture into the lions’ domain and find out more about these majestic animals – from how they hunt and stalk their prey, to how they play and nurture their young. This July, Lodging With Lions airs on Animal Planet, every Monday to Friday at 9pm.

At Antelope Park, Zimbabwe, a group of volunteers from all over the world have signed up for a unique conservation programme, which is part of the efforts of the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT). For their own safety and survival, the volunteers must first learn how to read a lion’s posture, how to approach the lions in a non-threatening manner, and what to do when faced with a dangerous situation. Dan Matthews, who heads the volunteer programme, then introduces the volunteers to the lions affectionately known as the ‘Ds’ and the ‘Rs’. Over the course of two weeks, the volunteers will observe the lions, walk with them, watch them feed their cubs, follow them on hunts, and even tag them with microchips to obtain invaluable data which could help save lion populations. They also witness firsthand the devastating effects of poaching, and discover that in the African bush there are other dangers apart from wild beasts.