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Meet the lion king
A FORMER tank regiment soldier who volunteers at a Knutsford nature reserve has begun to overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by tending to lions in Africa.
Ian Daniells first came to appreciate wildlife while on army patrol in exotic parts of the world including Belize and Cyprus.
“I used to sit in observation posts and there would be all kinds of different animals surrounding me all the time,” explained the 59-year old.
“It’s always been my dream to go out to Africa since I was six years old. I’d begun to feel down and was suffering from PTSD with the things I’d been through. I decided that I needed something to get my brain working.”
As a senior volunteer at Lower Moss Wood nature reserve, the father of three’s home in Winsford is often a menagerie of recovering animals and pets, presently including two ferrets, a dog and a cockatoo.
Ian enlisted on a six-week wildlife course at college before getting the blessing of wife Elaine to travel to Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa.
The facility, on the Zimbabwean border near Hudspruit, offers educational visits, gap-year holidays and supervised animal care.
But Ian spent nearly two months mostly left to his own devices, after the owner of the reserve noticed he’d struck up an affinity with one of the reserve’s biggest cats – a 16-year-old lion called Big Boy.
“The first time I met him, I was led into the enclosure and Big Boy was on the ground,” he added.
“I was asked to take over feeding him water from a washing up bowl. He started to drink and I was absolutely petrified. Then, when I turned around, I was all on my own. The wildlife centre worker had left!
“After that I’d go and feed him at night; walking across this 10 acre enclosure in the dark. I’d rest my head on his shoulder and he’d go to sleep; his 50 kilo head on my lap. He never showed any aggression. The staff said they’d never seen anything like it.
“It terrified me at first, but it was an absolutely phenomenal experience.”