New Zealand zoo offers up close, personal view

    7:47 AM, Aug 30, 2013   |    comments
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    CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (CNN) -- A wildlife park in Christchurch, New Zealand puts the people in cages, giving them a very up-close-and-personal encounter with hungry lions.

    While the experience has been around awhile, it's now getting international attention. news sites around the world, including the U.S., the UK and India, picked up the story after a tourist posted photos of the encounter on Facebook.

    It's a boost to tourism for a city recovering from the devastating 2011 earthquake.

    Before entering the lion's domain, guests are given a quick technical briefing. Then they're off in a mobile feeding enclosure, separated from these guys by about 10 millimeters of steel.

    Being this close to the king of the big cats is nothing new to Rob Cantabrians. Thanks to social media it's sparked interest from around the world; curious at the park's caged human approach. He says, "We're just blown away that we've been doing it since 1999 and all of a sudden there's a huge interest in it which is great."

    Canterbury Tourism is clawing its way back post quake. International exposure like this is well received. Park spokesman Nathan Hawke says, "I just think it's fantastic that there's this product that's been going on forever and it's suddenly getting all this coverage and it's such an amazing experience."

    And it has been going on forever. In fact, when the park opened in 1976 it was quite literally a drive through. Now, you get even closer. Cantabrians says, "In an open range (zoo), one of the real challenges is that people want to see animals in big open spaces - they don't want to look at specks in the distance."

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