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Close encounter with lions at Space Museum

Screening from April 2 to September 29, the Hong Kong Space Museum’s latest Omnimax Show,“Roar: Lions of the Kalahari”, will take the audience to the Kalahari Desert to witness a battle between an ageing lion king and a young contender. Through the film, audiences will also follow closely the life of a pride of African lions.

People usually think lions are unpredictable and highly dangerous, and even kill humans. The fact is that they are only unpredictable to those who do not understand them. Tim Liversedge, the film's director, has known the Okavango delta and Kalahari Desert for 40 years. He is experienced in observing animals and living with them as a game warden and photographer. Lions are, in fact, highly predictable and very focused on what they do.

Kalahari lions can survive without a source of water. They survive on the fluids of their prey and the moisture in wild fruits. They also lick dew from grasses and moisture from each other’s fur when it rains. In prides, hunting is mainly done by lionesses. Males feed on the prey caught by females. A typical lion hunt involves a stalk, followed by a final rush which may exceed 64 kilometres per hour, but the lion cannot sustain this pace for more than 90 metres. Lions adopt different hunting techniques for different prey, and can kill animals larger than themselves, such as giraffes and young elephants. Lions prefer an easy meal. They steal prey from other predators such as wild dogs, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas, and sometimes feed on animals as small as mice.

Young cubs usually remain hidden when their mother leaves to feed or to hunt. The lioness emits a special growl telling the youngsters to stay in place. They obey even if their mother is gone for a day or two. Only when they get older do they start disobeying her. Infanticide is common among lions. When a new lion takes over the pride, he will kill the cubs fathered by the defeated lion. If the cubs die, a lioness will be ready to mate with the new lion within days or weeks. Some mothers aggressively defend their cubs against incoming males. Several females may protect their cubs by teaming up against a single male. But if the odds are not in their favour, the females sometimes temporarily leave the pride to give the incoming male the chance to kill the cubs.

Each lion has its own distinctive scent. They usually mark their territory by spraying urine on bushes and scratching the ground or low trees with their claws. Like other cats, lions have outstanding night vision, therefore they hunt more often at night than in daylight. Despite their size, strength and natural weapons, male lions rarely live longer than 12 years in the wild. Females may live as long as 16 years.

The film was shot in the Kalahari Desert, a large arid to semi-arid sandy area in southern Africa extending hundred thousands of square kilometers, covering much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa. The only permanent river, the Okavango, flows into a delta in the northwest. There is little rainfall and the summer temperature can reach 50 degrees Celsius in the Kalahari Desert, which usually receives 7.6 to 20 centimetres of rain per year. The Kalahari is a good habitat for some animals and plants because most of it is a semi-desert, with huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains. Lions, African wild dogs, meerkat, elephants and giraffes are found there.

The 40-minute Omnimax Show, “Roar: Lions of the Kalahari”, will be screened daily at 3.50pm and 7.20pm at the museum’s Stanley Ho Space Theatre. There is one additional show at 12.20pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. The museum is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Tickets are available at the Space Museum box office and at all URBTIX outlets for $24 (front stalls) and $32 (stalls). Full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities will receive a half-price concession.

The Space Museum is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. For further information, call 2721 0226 or visit the website at .

Ends/Friday, March 28, 2008
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