Odd News

Chicago tourist cuddles with lion in South Africa, lives to tell about it

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Ted Papastefan deals with some savage customers in his job as a Chicago grocery store manager, but they’re nothing like the wild animal he encountered on a recent vacation.

Papastefan, 43, and his wife, Sophie, traveled to South Africa and came home with an incredible story that would be hard to believe if there weren't pictures to prove it.

It happened at the Bagamoya Wildlife Estate, in Maselspoort, South Africa, an animal sanctuary.

Papastefan wanted some good photos, but when he entered the sanctuary, he said a 19-month-old lion “came charging toward” him.

Instead of being terrified, the excited Papastefan said, “I could tell the animal just wanted to play.”

“So I ran toward him,” he added, “we collided and then started wrestling.”

His horrified wife, who was nearby and saw the beast knock Papastefan to the ground and roll on top of him, started frantically yelling his name.

But once Sophie realized the big cat just wanted to cuddle and that Papastefan was enjoying himself, she began capturing the frightful encounter on her phone.

Sanctuary officials told Papastefan that the lion, which they named Napolean, is not yet full-grown and hasn’t developed the aggressiveness of an adult male lion.

“He just saw me as a big, playful toy,” Papastefan said.

Although it was all in fun, Papastefan, who suffered cuts, bruises and puncture wounds on his leg during the tussle, posted the video online and “It went viral”.

Papastefan called it “The best experience I’ve had in my lifetime,” and he highly recommends it.

Ruth Ravve joined the Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1996 and currently serves as a Chicago-based producer.