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The Big Cat Gates

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One of the most unique aspects of the Safari was the "airlock" style gates at the entrance to the Lion section and the exit of the Tiger section.

 

Just a question for the original Safari crew people, were those the only gates like that int he Safari. I believe they were, but it brought up the question of how were the animals kept in their own sections between those gates? Was it just a warden at the gate? It seems like it would have been a dangerous place to be keeping the lions apart form the black bears.

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The cat and bear sections had two gates controled from a Warden in a tower. They loaded so many cars into the area, then closed a gate behind them and then opened the front gate. I don't ever remember a cat getting into those areas? The Wardens in the trucks, whose job was to watch every cat close to the gates, plus keep an eye on the people so they didn't get out of their cars. The biggest problems were with the Siberian tigers. They wanted to be on the side of the section that backed up to the American Section, that way they could see the deer and such. They also would bite out tires on cars , they would smell dog piss on the tires and just bite into them. Many tires were flatten that way.

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So Gary, if I am not mistaken the Lion Section led into the Bears Section. There were those "airlock" gates at the start of the Lion Section but only a simple hinged gate between the Lions and Bears with a guard stationed there. Was that guard out in the open swinging that gate open and closed? If so, besides the wardens in trucks, what kept the lions on one side and the bears on the other away from the guard when he was handling the gate?

 

 

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Thank's for sharing all your memories of the Safari Gary. I was very young back then (I was born Apr 27th. 1970) and the Gates in the Safari were one the things that fascinated me as a little kid. That and when the Monkey's would use the Sideview Mirrors on my parent's Car as a Perch. My Dad's old Cadillac El Dorado even had the Vinyl Top ripped up pretty bad one time by one of them.

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The gate guards job was to watch for any animal on either side that got too close to his gate. If one did he would call the warden on his radio and then close the gate and retreat to his hut until the warden drove off the animal on his side. My guards in my section had long poles with a fork so they could protect and push off any ostrich that would wonder too close to them, until I could get over to help.

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And the gates would break all the time in the first year. There was a small pin about a 1/16th of an inch in diameter and maybe 2 inches long and it would snap. The park engineer was from England our Scotland. He was a nice guy and he would always be up there trying to fix the gate. I don't remeber a cat getting in the loch either but it sure could have happened, but there was never a time when cars were in and both gates were open. So if a cat got in, he couldnt get out. But cat's did occassionally jump the 8 foot perimiter fence and get in the safe area before the next fence that was 10 feet.

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im sure this would scare anyone.....

 

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THAT is what made Safari what it was...the Wardens could drive the cats off if things got out of control...it made it very special.

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Does anyone know if the two elevated Safari huts used to operate the gates in and out the predator sectionsn were air conditioned? I don't think they could keep the windows open.

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I worked Gate 13 (pretty sure that was the number) and nope, no A/C. However, the gate person did not have to stay inside the windowed hut. That was in the center and you could be outside of it as well which was useful if you had to yell down to someone who was trying to get out of their car while waiting for the gate to open.

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THAT is what made Safari what it was...the Wardens could drive the cats off if things got out of control...it made it very special.

 

That would really scare me...

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I worked Gate 13 (pretty sure that was the number) and nope, no A/C. However, the gate person did not have to stay inside the windowed hut. That was in the center and you could be outside of it as well which was useful if you had to yell down to someone who was trying to get out of their car while waiting for the gate to open.

 

Great info! I am curious, what stopped a lion from climbing up the ladder into the hut?

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Great info! I am curious, what stopped a lion from climbing up the ladder into the hut?

 

 

Clinbing up to the tower, you pushed open a hatch door, and once in, you closed and secured that hatch. The cats were not allowed as far as the tower/moving gates. If one was approching and the warden was not in sight, it was the gate keepers job to radio and let the warden know.

 

I was on Gate 12 one day, (ground gate, not a tower gate) and I have no idea whatsoever how it happened, but I heard a noise and there was a tiger not 10 feet from me. It was making a Brr Brr purring sort of noise and up to that moment I never had realized just how big those tigers are! In a flash I was back in my little hut and bellowing at the top of my lungs into the radio "GATE 12 to LION (can't remember the number) THERE'S A CAT DOWN HERE" Pure panic in my voice. Thankfully the warden was there in a moment and chased the tiger back to where it was supposed to be. OMG. The next morning I was called into the office by Charlie Hull. I figured that I was going to get flack about that tiger getting as close to the gate as it did and about letting the panic show in my voice. Instead, that was the morning I was promoted from Gate Keeper to Warden.

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^ What year(s) did you work at the park?

 

During one of my last drives through the Safari I noticed there was a little marker on the bottom of one of the tower's legs. Not being able to read it with just my eyes because it was so small I zoomed in and took a photo of it. I was disappointed to read that it was just a warning about buried telephone lines!

 

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^ What year(s) did you work at the park?

 

I want to say it was 77 and 78 that I was there. Butch was Lion 1, Charlie Hull, Lion 2 and John King was Lion 3.

 

I had another interesting Gate 13 incident. I was brought out to the gate in the morning and before the cats were let out I saw a small snake wiggling along in the grass. I climbed down, grabbed the snake and stuffed it into a bottle. I showed it later to the vet and learned that I had picked up a young copperhead....

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This is a question for gafreak I was wondering where you got the picture of the lion standing on the car from? This is a picture of Jungle Habitat in West Milford, NJ. It was taken in 1972 as best that Dave Barnes and I can figure. That was in the Lower Lion section and had to be 1972 because the traffic was reversed in 1973. That picture is of a very well recognized cat so we would love to find out where it came from. Thanks

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The last of the automated lion gates has been removed, although the tower still remains. All of the swing gates between the other sections have been replaced with new automated gates. They also added a new set of automated gates following the former Australian section (which is now called Didgeridoo). You can see some of the old gates being removed below.

 

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Hi I'm Randy or if you prefer Lion 9/11/19. Started in Safari before the park opened - doc Kline got me my job there. A lot of good memories JUST came flooding back! Somewhere I have loads of pictures. I still remember Grumpy, B.J. and Michele. My three little brown bear cubs. they used to hang out together sucking on each others ears. Anybody here from Captain Hook Joe C? I've got lots of stories. Anybody remember Villa Rosa?

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Somebody wanted to know if there ever was a stampede at G.A. Yes there was the gate person on gate 3 came over radio yelling their getting through the gate. Only problem was she didn't say wich gate I think every warden floored their trucks. I know this happened I married her.

Edited by Randy M
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