What Must Ye Do If A Lion Or A Tiger Attacks

Both the Lion and the Tiger are everything to me. Being my favourite animals, they are an inspiration to me, motivating me to see in myself, awesomeness, bravery, strength, greatness and presumably even romance. I view my passion for them as people would for singers or actors

Yet I do not want to belittle and emphasize what even fans of both Lions and Tigers know as much as those who do not entirely (or not at all) indulge in the natural world is that both these big cats are dangerous, a fact known to enthusiasts and those unfamiliar with the natural world. The mere presence of these big cats, whether in the wild or at a zoo, invokes fear. If encountered on foot in the wild, running, though instinctual, only prompts them to chase. It is a fact that that Lions and Tigers have occasionally caused harm, more so death to humans, driven by their opportunistic nature. However, their motivation for such actions often stems from their elderly age or physical limitations, such as a limp resulting from previous hunting attempts. Another contributing factor could be their historical mistreatment by humans, instilling a fear that leads them to view humans as vulnerable prey. This perspective is influenced by the fact that humans are comparatively slower runners, lacking the swiftness exhibited by other animals in terms of speed.

When encountering Lions or Tigers at a zoo, there is typically no need for concern due to the presence of visible or concealed barriers (depending on the zoo in question). These barriers separate us from the animals. However, when encountering these big cats in their natural habitat, our reactions involving a combination of fear and the instinct to flee can trigger their predatory response. If we have no protection from a sufficiently large vehicle or are on foot, big cats might perceive us as potential prey and chase after us. Defending ourselves against such situations does not always necessitate firearms or weaponry. Employing nonviolent strategies like calmly walking away, displaying fearlessness when they approach, or even using techniques like making ourselves appear larger and vocalizing assertively can often lead them to retreat.

This is not meant to change our view of either Lion or Tiger but is simply advice that I’d like to share with everyone in case of a Lion or Tiger attack. Running is not advisable, as it is a behaviour associated with their prey. Instead, there are alternative methods to avoid being attacked by either of these big cats. While protection strategies for both animals tend to share similarities due to their shared nature as large felines, there are distinct approaches to safeguarding oneself from Lions and Tigers. By comprehending how to avoid triggering the predatory instincts of these animals, we can ensure our safety in their presence, just as they remain safe from us.

  • Vikram Wagh

    For all their magnificence and popularity, Lions are as feared as they are idolized and when it comes to our instinct to flee from them, we cannot outrun them, even if we are an athletic sprinter. In fact, with a speed of up to 80km an hour, a Lion can run faster than a human can.
    Physically confronting a Lion is neither fair nor logical. Male Lions, with their iconic manes, can weigh between 120 to 190kg, significantly more than humans, while even smaller females can reach lengths of up to 3m, including their tails. Despite being social cats that live in prides of 3 to 40 individuals, Lions are known to attack humans and have been responsible for up to 250 human deaths annually. These attacks have been documented in Southern and East Africa since the 1830s and 1890s respectively. To ensure safety in the presence of Lions where they can be viewed, one should take certain precautions.

  1. Body Language – While on a stroll and encounter a Lion, pause to assess the big cat’s intentions. A Lion pawing the ground indicates disinterest in attacking you, which is good news. However, unlike friendly dogs wagging their tails, Lions do this when threatened. If Lions are still with their rigid tail, they are hunting, but as long as they do not approach you, you are safe.
  2. Stay Calm – It is a worthy remembrance that Lions are able to sense when we fear them so just remain calm in their presence whether ye are on foot or in a safari vehicle
  3. Listening – If a Lion runs towards ye growling or grunting, that is his/her way of sizing you up. Running will only tigger their instinct to chase ye so if Lions simply make a mock charge or stop after a charge, then simply walk away without turning your back
  4. Sending the Right Message – Lion attacks require avoiding communication breakdown. Inform the Lion you are not a threat by standing sideways, avoiding eye contact, and watching their feet. Closing your tent is vital in Lion Country to prevent fatal encounters, as a French couple learned tragically in Tanzania when they were attacked by a Lion in the bush due to leaving their tent open. The man lost his arm, and his wife was wounded, leaving lasting psychological scars. This incident emphasizes the importance of keeping tents closed while camping in Lion territory to avoid such dangers. Sleeping with an open tent or exposing oneself to predators during a safari greatly increases the risk of intentional or unintentional harm.
  5. Intimidation – Lions assess situations before attacking, selecting potential prey. If you are interested in acting and want to deter an attacking Lion, appear as a serious threat. Act bigger, wave an object, and make noise. If the Lion remains calm, back away slowly with eye contact. If charging continues, keep being noisy to seem threatening. Insufficient acting might escalate the situation.
  6. Stay Put – A Lion may mock charge and approach you in a zigzag. Do not run as this could trigger an attack from behind. Climbing isn’t safe either, as Lions can climb even though they are not as athletic as leopards. Stay put, regardless of fear.
  7. Neck Protection – Surprisingly, we often fail to anticipate things until it is too late. In a Lion’s territory, they are the predators; if you encounter a Lion, shield your neck, as they typically attack by biting there.
  8. Avoid Moonlight – Lions are safer to encounter during the day due to their preference for nighttime hunting. Research from Minnesota University shows that Lion attacks on humans are more frequent around 10 nights after a full moon and when the moon is below the horizon. Avoiding areas where Lions live is the best preventive measure. Lions once roamed Asia and Europe, but now they mainly inhabit Southern Africa (especially South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia) and East Africa, with Kenya and Uganda being popular spots for sightings. A few Lions live in Western India. Most African Lions reside in Sub-Saharan areas, while Indian Lions prefer forests. African Lions tend to attack more than Indian Lions. If you haven’t booked an African safari, the risk of a Lion attack is lower, especially in India where Lions are used to humans.

Stay Quiet – If you spot a Tiger before the big cat notices you, remain silent and still to avoid alerting the animal. Even old, sick, or injured Tigers remain dangerous, and impaired ones might pose an even greater threat than healthy ones. Due to their inability to hunt regular prey, humans become vulnerable targets for Tigers.
MPDo not stick your hand into the air – A Lion perceives this as a trigger to attack

Despite their impressive appearance and fame, Tigers are not friendly felines. The Tiger, the largest among big cats, competes with the Lion in size and strength. Do not underestimate their power; they are 20 times stronger than an average human who are as vulnerable to their attacks as much as non-human animals. The heaviest Tiger ever recorded weighed 550kg, with the Siberian Tiger outweighing the Bengal Tiger by 300kg on average. Adult Tigers, composed of 70% muscle, can reach 360kg and 2.3m in length. With 17cm teeth and 7.5cm claws, they can decapitate a human in one strike. Fleeing is futile, given their speed of up to 60km/h. Tigers have caused over 373,000 human deaths between 1800 and 2009, still posing a threat today,  having attacked more people than Lions as well. Escaping a Tiger is possible through certain methods.




  1. If you spot a Tiger before it notices you, remain silent and still to avoid alerting it. Even old, sick, or injured Tigers remain dangerous, and impaired ones might pose an even greater threat than healthy ones. Due to their inability to hunt regular prey, humans become vulnerable targets.
  2. Inhale Deeply – When faced with a Tiger, avoid panicking and the ‘fight or flight’ response. Instead, back away slowly without eye contact and keep the Tiger in sight. Once the Tiger has gone, leave quickly. Parents with children should lift the child onto their shoulders to appear larger. Couples in danger should have the woman stand on the man’s shoulders to seem threatening. Stand tall to appear bigger, as crouching invites attack.
  3. Hold Your Urine – No matter how scared you are, do not wet your pants through urine, controllable or not as Tigers are attracted to the smell of urine and might think you are marking your territory, taking it as an act of aggression which may just get ye killed.
  4. Do Not Believe Myths – Contrary to the myth of cats fearing water, Tigers defy this notion. They are skilled swimmers, enjoying water and cooling off. They do not use water to hide. Surprisingly, more Tigers are in captivity than in the wild, even surpassing Lions in this regard. Around 5,000 Tigers are in US zoos, while globally there are only 3,900. Despite close relationships with hand-raised Tigers, they can still attack, as seen in circuses where handlers have been mauled. It’s best not to touch Tigers, regardless of familiarity. Thankfully, circuses have banned animal use, including Tigers. Escaped captive still Tigers remain dangerous, much like wild Tigers.
  5. Climb A Tree – Unlike other cats, particularly leopards, Tigers cannot climb trees so when escaping from an attacking Tiger, it is important to climb a tree high enough for a Tiger not to reach you.






In the end it is important to remember that while Lions and Tigers sometimes view us as mere prey, they typically do not actively target humans. Our history with these big cats began negatively, as suggested by fossil discoveries in regions like Tanzania and South Africa. These findings indicate that early humans, such as Homo Habilis, were vulnerable to Lion attacks. This memory could have negatively influenced human perceptions, leading to our historical hunting of these cats. Just like ancient emperors who later hunted Tigers from elephant backs using various weapons, including swords, bows, arrows, and rifles introduced during British rule, after being introduced to the sport by emperors.

Similar to Emperors who considered killing Tigers a step into manhood, this tradition was also practiced by Kenya’s Masai Tribe and Uganda’s Nandi Tribe who killed Lions as such as rite of passage. For centuries, they did this using only spears and shields, creating a negative perception of humans among Lions (and Tigers). This antagonistic view persists today and escalated when hunters used guns to test their bravery against Lions. Travel books on Southern Africa suggest that wild animals fear humans more than we fear them, implying that ancient big cats might have attacked humans due to confusion. Over time, our defence against such attacks has led to mutual respect, yet this history of conflict resulted in revenge killings of Lions and Tigers for sport or fear. Unfortunately, this illogical action has significantly reduced their populations.

Many individuals strive to eliminate any lingering negative influence of Lions and Tigers on humans and vice versa, aiming to secure the well-being of these large cats. In recent years, there’s a prevailing belief in the importance of training Lions or Tigers to avoid consuming humans, rather than resorting to lethal measures, except when there is a pattern of multiple human fatalities. If a single person survives an attack from one of these big cats, it is crucial to monitor the cat’s subsequent behaviour before intervening to help them overcome their inclination towards human flesh. Lions and Tigers should not be unfairly branded as man-eaters, especially considering other animals like leopards or crocodiles have posed greater threats to humans. Attacks by Lions and Tigers are infrequent and usually stem from feeling threatened, being wounded during hunting, or protecting their offspring.

On the other hand, I believe that there are many people whose lives have been changed by Lions and Tigers such as Sumatran Prince Sang Nila Utama who discovered and renamed the island of Temasek ‘Singapore’ meaning Lion City after he sighted what he believed to be a Lion there (today it is believed that what he really saw was a Tiger, a theory backed up by no evidence of Lions anywhere in Southeast Asia and the fact that Tigers used to be common in Singapore until 1930). Another famous example is the story of George Adamson (3rd February 1906 – 20th August 1989), an Englishman who underwent a dramatic transformation from senior wildlife warden of Northern Kenya to an articulate advocate for Lions when he and his wife Frederike Victoria Gessner (20th January 10 – 3rd January 1980) simply known as ‘Joy’ raised a Lioness whom they named Elsa and trained her to live in the wilds of Meru national park (in Northern Kenya) where she had cubs of her own, something detailed by Joy in her book ‘Born Free’ which became a film six years after its publication and ten years after the events depicted in the book actually happened. Over the years even people who have hunted Lions like the 26th American President Theodore Roosevelt (October 27th 1858 – 6th January 1919) who took a trip to what is now Kenya to escape re-election pressures and to collect East African wildlife for the American museum saw the beauty in all the animals he hunted, including the Lion which even earned him the title of ‘American Lion’ for the rest of his life and later on in life, he encouraged people to protect animals like the Lion rather than hunt them.

However, many lives have been also been positively impacted by Lions and Tigers, like Sumatran Prince Sang Nila Utama who renamed Temasek ‘Singapore,’ meaning Lion City, after sighting what he believed to be a Lion (now thought to be a Tiger) on the island. George Adamson, once a senior wildlife warden, transformed into a Lion advocate by raising and training a Lioness named Elsa in Kenya’s Meru National Park to live in the wild. In time, even avid Lion hunters like Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th American President, recognized the beauty in the animals they pursued. Roosevelt’s trip to Kenya, taken to escape re-election pressures and gather East African wildlife for an American museum, led to his admiration for Lions. This admiration earned him the moniker ‘American Lion’ for life, and he later advocated for their protection instead of hunting.


The absence of Lions or Tigers would not only disrupt the natural balance as they are dominant figures in their ecosystems, but it would also deprive us of inspirational symbols of courage, nobility, pride, and confidence. These creatures are revered akin to Gods or superheroes, potentially surpassing even well-known figures like Batma or X-Men or the Fantastic 4 (all of which in some way or another albeit indirectly or more unconsciously seem to have a big cat reference). They have influenced our culture, inspiring both heroic and villainous portrayals in literature, reflecting our preference for seeing them as champions.

We have even associated inanimate elements with them and many a country has come to be symbolic of them whether or not they have ever lived there at all. Zoos everyday are increasing their popularity thanks to their viewings of Lions and Tigers which in turn inspire people to want to see these animals in the wild. Zoos that have highly successful conservation programmes that promote awareness of Lions and Tigers include Singapore Zoo, Auckland Zoo in New Zealand and Dublin Zoo in Ireland (zoos in the United States such as the San Diego Zoo also have their share of Lion and Tiger popularity). Indonesia, China and Thailand are where Tigers occur both in the wild as well as in zoos while South Africa in addition to its fame for its wildlife such as Lions also has a zoo of its own in its largest city, Johannesburg and best of all, as well as Lions, the nation is the only place in Africa to not just have a zoo but the first to breed Tigers in Africa even though they are not wild there like Lions are. There are many places in the world that have no native Lions or Tigers but still we use their name to represent a place that is of wonder to us. As a result, we are doing our part to save them (as well as their subjects) through many conservation organisations so that we may hopefully inspire the entire world to make sure that both the Lion and Tiger will be there for years to come. The Lion and Tiger inspire me every day in every way and are my stars. My life certainly changed when I became their fan of both of them and I will always stand for them.

Inanimate elements as well as countries have become associated with Lions and Tigers even if these animals never inhabited those places. Zoos are gaining popularity due to their exhibitions of these majestic animals, motivating people to observe them in the wild. Notable zoos like Singapore Zoo, Auckland Zoo in New Zealand, and Dublin Zoo in Ireland, as well as the Chiang Mai Zoo in Thailand, contribute to Lion and Tiger conservation awareness. In China and Thailand as well as Indonesia, Tigers can be found both in the wild and in zoos. South Africa boasts both Lions in the wild and in Johannesburg Zoo. Interestingly, it is the sole African nation breeding Tigers in its zoo, despite their non-native status. Despite the absence of Lions and Tigers in some regions, their names evoke wonder. Numerous conservation organizations work to preserve these creatures and their habitats, aiming to inspire global action. Personally, the Lion and Tiger are my daily inspirations, driving positive change. My life transformed upon becoming their fan, and my allegiance to them remains unwavering.

The End





  1. The Malay Annals (1612)
  2. The Maneaters of Tsavo (1907) – by John Henry Patterson
  3. African Game Trails (1909) – by Theodore Roosevelt
  4. The Great Roosevelt Hunt and the Wild Animals of the World (1909) – by Frederick Seymour
  5. Maneaters of Kumaon (1944) – by Jim Corbett
  6. Born Free (1960) – Book – by Joy Adamson
  7. The Big Cats and their Fossil Relatives (1997) – by Alan Turner
  8. Africa’s Big Five (1999 – 2005) – by Gerald Hinde, Richard Du Toit and William Taylor
  9. Lion of Singapore (2020) – by Vikram Wagh
  10. Insight Guides Singapore
  11. Insight Guides Kenya
  12. Insight Guides South Africa
  13. Insight Guides Namibia
  14. Insight Guides Tanzania (and Zanzibar)
  15. Insight Guides Thailand
  16. Insight Guides Indonesia
  17. Insight Guides China

Film and Documentary

  1. Elsa the Lioness (1961) – documentary hosted by David Attenborough
  2. Born Free (14th March 1966) – film directed by James Hill
  3. Christian the Lion (1971 – 2009) – documentary directed by Bill Travers
  4. Lord of the Lions (1989) – documentary directed by Nick Gray
  5. Lions with Anthony Hopkins (December 7th 1993) – documentary directed by Mike Fox
  6. Tigers with Bob Hoskins (December 12th 1994) – documentary directed by Andrew Jackson
  7. The National Parks of Africa: East Africa (1999) – documentary
  8. The National Parks of Africa: Southern Africa (1999) – documentary
  9. Singapore (1999 – 2007) – documentary directed by Frank Ullman
  10. Kenya (1999 – 2007) – documentary directed by Frank Ullman
  11. South Africa (1999 – 2007) – documentary directed by Frank Ullman
  12. Namibia (1999 – 2007) – documentary directed by Frank Ullman
  13. Southern Africa (1999 – 2007) – documentary directed by Frank Ullman
  14. China (1999 – 2007) – documentary directed by Frank Ullman
  15. Thailand (1999 – 2007) – documentary directed by Frank Ullman

  1. To Walk With Lions (1999) – film directed by Carl Schultz

  1. Mountains of the Monsoon (2009) – documentary directed by Sandesh Kadur

  1. The Born Free Legacy (2010) – documentary

  1. Elsa the Lioness that Changed the World (2010 – 2011) – documentary

  1. Discover the World: South Africa (2012) – documentary

  1. Discover the World: Namibia (2012) – documentary

  1. Hunt for the Red Lion (2015) – documentary
  2. Secrets of Singapore (2019) – documentary