Video: Professional wrestlers played tug of war with a lion at San Antonio zoo

Updated 6:28 pm, Thursday, June 14, 2018


It was man versus beast at the San Antonio Zoo last month.

In what’s become a viral video, three professional World Wrestling Entertainment stars matched up against Axelle the lioness in a game of tug of war.

The outcome? Axelle: 1. Wrestlers: 0.

“You’ve got these three huge men and they’re barely budging, they’re barely able to pull on this,” San Antonio Zoo Director of Public Relations Chuck Cureau said. “It just demonstrates the power these wild animals have. They may be trained but they’re certainly not tamed, and people underestimate the power of these animals.”


It’s not the first time athletes have taken on the animals. Tony Parker gave it a shot, as did the San Antonio Rampage.




The zoo installed the game in 2016 to provide stimulation for its big cats. It’s one of many ways animal care specialists there work to recreate aspects of animals’ natural environments. For some animals, they’ll hide food or put food in specially-manufactured toys that provide a challenge for the animals, according to Cureau.


RELATED: The San Antonio Zoo is advertising a trip to the Amazon

“We try to simulate what they would do out in the natural environment. It is tough, they have to forage for food, compete for food, to through long periods of time without food,” Cureau said. “Fortunately in a zoo, they’re going to get that food every single day, but we try to vary it up so they don’t get bored.”

Activities are not supposed to be on a schedule, so there’s not a set time zoo visitors can expect to watch a tug of war match. It’s up to the animal care services to decide when that type of stimulation is a good idea, Cureau said.


When zoo staff heard from World Wrestling Entertainment that a number of professional wrestlers would be in town May 19th and wanted to see the zoo, they arranged some special activities: feeding the giraffes, some behind-the-scenes time with a rhinoceros, (both of which are open to the public) and a tug of war with Axelle.

“These wrestlers are incredible physical specimens, they are indeed athletes. I (saw) these grown muscular men pick up other grown muscular men and throw them down,” Cureau said.

But with dozens watching and three wrestlers working together, they could not pull the rope from the mouth of 250-pound Axelle.

“She’s not moving,” one of the wrestlers said as he dropped the ropes.

Cureau said he was glad the video went viral since it helped give the zoo a platform to educate the public about animals, their needs, and how to help them.

S. M. Chavey is a staff writer for mySA.com. | sarah.chavey@express-news.net | 210-250-3122 Twitter: @smchavey

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