It could be straight out of Disney hit The Lion King but this lion cub and meerkat cuddling up to each other is real. Meet the real-life Simba and Timon. The loveable duo have been best chums since new-born lioness Zinzi was rescued by being taken into the home of zoo and safari ranch owner Marcell Tournier, 33, after its mother rejected her. Just like cartoon character Simba – the lion cub hero of Disney classic The Lion King – young Zinzi was also separated from her family and incredibly formed and bond with a wandering meerkat.
In another incredible real-life parallel, meerkat Bob acts like the movie character Timon as a drifter. The cheeky critter only comes to Marcell’s when he feels like it and enjoys free meals. Pictures show how the pair were inseparable from the beginning and are still good pals today – despite rapidly-growing Zinzi, now six months old, now vastly out-sizing her cheeky chum. And there’s nothing they like better than lion around together in South Africa’s summer heat.
Marcell added: "Bob seems to have a "Hakuna Matata" problem-free philosophy and taught Zinzi how to relax Zinzi was brought in at just one day old when Marcell realised her mother was refusing to feed her – a harsh reality of nature that could have meant the end of adorable Zinzi.
But almost as soon as the lion had moved in to the home, near Sun City, South Africa, Marcell quickly realised he wasn’t Zinzi’s only fan. Lively two-year-old Meerkat instantly took a shine to his new playmate. Amazingly Bob began following his much bigger friend day and night and would even snuggle in at nap time. "Bob likes having anything cute and cuddly around," said Marcell. "If it’ll lie down and cuddle him he will love it". The pair quickly formed an unlikely friendship and were soon doing everything together.
Marcell said: "They play together, eat together and drink together. Whatever Zinzi was having in those first few days and weeks Bob would have as well". Bob is a celebrity face around the zoo, with some visitors coming back five or six times to see him again and again. ‘Meerkats can be very aggressive but he’s really cool’, said Marcell. "He’s got loads of friends around here who he goes and sees every day. He plays with the hyenas and other animals and they don’t mind him. He pretty much runs the whole farm," he joked.
Bob’s runs the sprawling Predator World Zoo and Game Farm, which covers 1,000 hectares in the country’s north-west. It is home to over 36 species of animal including leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, snakes and birds.