The Lions’ Retirement Plan

Once upon a timethere was lush jungle with an attached rich Savannah grassland. All the animals lived contentedly and daily ate their fill, especially the lions who, at the top of the food chain, could eat anything they fancied.

But with the passage of time, the chief lion, Leo, noticed a slackening of the lions’ enthusiasm in their hunting forays. He observed them break into a chase for a few seconds and then slow up, allowing the prey to flee.

As the occurrence of this strange behavior increased, Leo became alarmed, and he called in Reynard the fox and Aquila the eagle as consultants and promised to pay them a fee of half a deer, shared between them.

The First Solution

After two days, Reynard and Aquila submitted their findings stating: “The problem is simple. Your lions have become obese and lazy and can no longer give chase to fast prey. We recommend you put them on a strict diet to lose weight, a physical training program to get them back into shape and warn them that any tardy or underperforming lions will be banned from partaking in the kill.” Leo was quite pleased with this seemingly easy solution and, being greedy as powerful beasts usually are, he shortchanged his two advisors by paying them a single partially eaten leg of deer.

The next day, Leo assembled the lions and read out his new edict. The lions reacted in an uproar that soon progressed to anti-Leo slogans, and then broke into a riot. Leo was aghast at the rapidly unfolding scene, especially since he saw himself as a good leader who did his utmost to enhance the lives of his subjects. He quickly slinked away to his den, positioned his cubs in a defense cordon around it, and called the fox and the eagle and gave them a severe roaring scolding and threateningly exposed his fierce sharp teeth.

The eagle, proud and true to his principles, stuck to his initial views and insisted that the problem was the lions’ obstinacy, and that Leo should not back down, but force the new program, even if gradually. As for the fox, initially terrified by the Lion’s wrath, his wiliness soon kicked-in, and he reckoned that this was a perfect opportunity to make a quick buck. So, playing along with the lion’s desires, he collected his wits and calmly assured Leo: “Relax, my lord, don’t worry, I have a solution that will be satisfactory to you and the other lions. It just needs some fine tuning.”

Reynard’s reply was music to Leo’s ears, as this was what he wanted to hear and, immediately, his stressed and wrinkled brow relaxed. The eagle began to object, but Leo first shushed him and then summarily dismissed him with a wave of his huge paw. He then turned to the fox and grinning asked: “What have you got for me, Foxy? And how much will it cost me this time?”

Reynard smiled, knowing that he now had the arena to himself and could begin cashing in: “Dear Leo, this is a complicated and costly endeavor with high overhead. A minimum of four deer will be needed to see it through.” He stopped and stole a glance at Leo’s face and, not seeing any signs of rejection of the exorbitant price, he continued: “Two deer in advance for public relations purposes, and two deer on completion of the assignment. What do you say?” Cornered and desperate, Leo agreed to Reynard’s price and instructed his cubs to deliver two deer carcasses to the fox’s home.

The Second Solution

A few days later, the fox presented his plan: “My lord, after carrying out a full field study, I have concluded that it is futile to try convincing the lions to diet, exercise or to force them to hunt enthusiastically. My advice is to remove them entirely from the hunting brigade. Retire them and replace them with young vibrant and agile cubs.”

On hearing this outlandish solution, a smile of relief began to form on Leo’s face, but it soon disappeared, and he wailed: “But how will I feed so many retired lions? They still have long to live and are young enough to hunt and feed themselves. They will become an unbearable burden!”

“Not at all,” interjected the fox, “You shouldn’t worry, not even a bit. The jungle is very rich with prey, and by renewing your hunting brigade cadres and injecting young and spirited lions instead of the lazy ones, your hunting expeditions will more than double their catches. In fact, you will have so much spare meat that you will be able donate some of it to the other carnivores and thus, buy their gratitude and allegiance.” Leo’s face beamed with a huge smile, and he generously ordered his cubs to carry the two remaining deer carcasses to the fox’s den.

Accordingly, Leo retired most of the hunting lions and replaced them with young, eager and gung-ho cubs. However, it soon became evident that the cubs’ lack of experience translated into the failure of almost all the hunting expeditions. Not only that, but the new cubs soon got fed up with this strenuous work and, in a couple of months, requested to be retired. This was repeated many times over, all with the same negative results.

But despite the continuous hunting failures, the lions remained well fed and food was aplenty! As such, they remained grossly obese, barely able to walk a hundred meters without needing to rest under the shade of a tree. Leo was quite bewildered and even began to question his own sanity. He called in Reynard the fox to examine this phenomenon, and after quickly agreeing to a fee of ten deer, half paid upfront, the fox set out to analyze the situation.

The Third Solution

One week later, Reynard returned with an array of charts and data tables and presented his findings: “My lord, I have discovered that you lions are a blessed species. You don’t need to hunt, because food comes to you!” He grinned and addressed Leo’s amazed face, “You have been blessed with a huge and powerful physique coupled with a natural inclination for bloody violence. The lions no longer need to tire themselves hunting but rely on what the other carnivores chase and catch. All they have to do is lay comfortably in the shade and monitor the plains. Once they spot a carnivore chasing prey, they lock-in on him until he catches it, then they simply stroll over and scare him away and eat his catch. Your lions have turned the jungle into a fast food restaurant with the carnivores as their private chefs.”

Astonished, but saddened at the loss of the lions’ hunting culture, Leo nodded and murmured: “If this is what they want and desire, and if it makes them happy, so be it.” And he ordered his cubs to deliver one deer to the fox, in settlement of his fees.

The Final Outcome

In the following few years, the lions lived comfortably and were quite content. But then, the grasslands began to dry up and shrink (probably due to climate change). The once huge herds began to shrink as they migrated to greener pastures, and the carnivores either starved to death or also migrated. The lions began to notice that their food portions were growing smaller and their fast food suppliers were disappearing. More and more, hunger forced them to rise and search for prey and then try to chase it down, but rarely were they successful. They had lost their hunting skills and didn’t have the energy or agility to carry out the hard and exhausting work needed to earn an honorable living.

The lions began to go hungry and verged on starvation, and many fell sick and many of the young died from malnutrition. And since economic hardships magnify differences, no matter how small, the lions began to split into competing groups and parties that fought each other over the slightest misunderstandings, including who gets to eat the rotting leftovers of a gnawed carcass.

As the calamity worsened, the lions began to blame Leo for their misfortunes and claim that his bad management had led them to these dire straits. This depressed ‘old’ Leo and he began to withdraw from his community and spend most of his time laying below his favorite tree, optimistically surveying the horizon for rain-bearing clouds.

Then one day, as he lay gazing at the sky, Aquila the eagle, flew in and perched on an overhead branch. Happy to see him, Leo yelled out: “Aquila, my old friend, where have you been? I have missed your wisdom. Why have you abandoned me? Why didn’t you stop me from following the sly fox’s advice?”

The Eagle smiled pityingly and replied: “I did try, but your mind was already made up in advance. You chose the easy but wrong route instead of the hard but correct one, and then shut your ears to all other views and opinions. By choosing short-term objectives and disregarding the longer-term ones, the present sad results became inevitable!” Aquila then flapped his wings and said: “Anyway, my dear friend, I have come to bid you farewell as I am migrating to a safer jungle. When eagle flesh becomes a delicacy, that is a signal to go… Adieu Leo.” And off he flew into the horizon.


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