Anyone wanting to talk with the animals, walk with the animals, or even climb on the animals will be well served at Argentina's Lujan Zoo, where even the most dangerous predators are supposedly taught to cuddle up to humans by raising them alongside dogs.
Opened in 1994 with little more than a monkey, a couple of lions, and a smattering of grazing animals, the infamous zoo has grown to house a wide variety of beasts large and small, even working to repopulate certain dwindling species. However the real draw to the site is the opportunity to get up close and personal with animals such as lions, tigers, and bears. Despite the seemingly evident danger presented by allowing guests to cozy up to large predatory animals, the beasts don't seem to mind the procession of grinning tourists and awed children that hug them for photo opportunities.
According to zoo officials, this docile attitude is achieved via two methods. The most obvious is by keeping the creatures constantly full and well-fed so that they don't ever think of humans as food. The other method involves raising the massive predators alongside canines. Supposedly the wild animals learn to mimic the domesticated dogs' affection for humans, leaving them irreversibly heart-warming. However not everyone is convinced that these methods work, or even exist.
Despite largely positive reviews across a number of travel sites, the zoo has also garnered negative descriptions with some visitors noting that the animals seemed incredibly lethargic, as though they had been chemically sedated. Animal rights groups have also claimed that no amount of training or feeding could produce the level of passivity on display at the Lujan Zoo. The zoo claims that the level of sedation they are accused of is impossible as it would simply kill the animals. No matter how sleepy the tigers seem, no concrete evidence on either side of the argument has come to light.
Written by Eric Grundhauser, this is a slightly modified version of an article that originally ran on Atlas Obscura, the leading guide to the wondrous and curious places across the earth. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!