September 17th, 2008
06:18 PM ET

After Ike: Baptist Church now a Lion's Den?

David M. Reisner
AC360° Digital Producer

One of the most powerful images to come out of Hurricane Ike was from the town of Gilchrist, Texas. This was the town whose near total destruction could be summed up in this now iconic image... showing one house left standing in row after row of wasteland. (See Gilchrist,TX before and After Ike)


But of all the stories we heard during the storm, and all the images we have seen, there was one tale that I heard which I could not believe until I saw proof.

Today we have proof.

Meet Shackle, an 11-year-old African lioness as she lays on the altar at the First Baptist Church in Crystal Beach, Texas. The lion and her owner (who collects exotic animals) waded through Hurricane Ike flood waters to the church after they were unable to make it off Bolivar Peninsula prior to Ike's landfall.

Chuck Jones, who led a task force that landed on the peninsula east of Galveston put it best when he said "We're not going in there... We know where he [the lion] is on the food chain."

Filed under: David M. Reisner • Hurricane Ike
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Kelley F

    "September 17th, 2008 8:51 pm ET by Sonia

    We Hindus believe that God in the form of Durga ( protector and destroyer of evil) rides on a Lion.. and Hindu Vedantist believe all peace loving religions are equal ..true and and right..Im thinking Durga’s Lion went to check out on Christ and offer his followers a ride out of the storm..amen.."

    I like this Sonia.

    September 19, 2008 at 9:34 am |
  2. Jocelyn

    Wow...look@ the 2nd pic there...she looks so dazed & confused... soooo........GORGEOUS!!!

    Thank God she's ok...& i heard theres a hungry tiger on the loose...I hope they'd just tranquilize him instead of shooting him like what they did with the bear a month ago remember? The bear whose head stuck in a glass or something didnt eat for a week (creepily thin...) & they 'had no other ways but to kill it' (My A-S-S...)

    September 17, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  3. Kent, Illinois

    Nope..........I wouldn't go near it either..........

    September 17, 2008 at 10:29 pm |
  4. Felix L.

    "The lion and her owner (who collects exotic animals) waded through Hurricane Ike flood waters to the church after they were unable to make it off Bolivar Peninsula prior to Ike’s landfall."

    Where exactly do you go when you're trying to get away from the hurricane with a lion in tow?

    To Anderson et al.: You got our attention with these photos. Now please try to get the attention of some animal groups and/or zoos who can take this graceful animal to a proper shelter for food and medical treatment. And go to the authorities too if the owner refuses to do what's best for the animal. The current situation poses a risk to the lion and the humans nearby.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:59 pm |
  5. Jack Jack

    Looks to me like a hungry lion accessing the ancestral memory and realizing "Oh yeah! Christians are tasty!"

    September 17, 2008 at 9:45 pm |
  6. David Crandall

    He says; 'where is my next steak comin' from?'

    September 17, 2008 at 9:40 pm |
  7. Tom K

    It is so wonderful that they accommodated this lioness. This is a touching story of how we gave of ourselves to protect one of God's creatures.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:38 pm |
  8. Anna

    I agree with STacy. Why aren't we getting more information? What happened to all those people who stayed? How many of them were washed out to sea? Or are under the rubble?

    We really do need this information, even if it's unpleasant, so that others don't stay when another hurricane comes.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:37 pm |
  9. Annie Kate

    Laying in front of the altar like she is, she looks like she is in holy contemplation. She's a beautiful animal but not exactly what I would want to meet in a church or anywhere else. Glad she and her owner made it through Ike though.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    September 17, 2008 at 9:28 pm |
  10. Jesse

    I hope no one there had the name "Daniel".

    September 17, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  11. Terro

    Oh my gosh... how irresponsible. I have my doubts about the wisdom of keeping dangerous animals anyway but if you do, you have really upped your social responsibilities to keep both animal and people safe should something happen... those are the folks who should have been on the rode the moment the smell of possible disaster was in the air. It is unacceptable to say "we could not get out in time". If they find themselves heading out unnecessarily 6 times out of 7, so be it.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:18 pm |
  12. Charlotte

    I think the church must have been the best place to be after all. Look at the light-weight microphone stands and the chairs that are still standing!

    September 17, 2008 at 9:17 pm |
  13. Sonia

    Why isn't anyone asking where the heck he got the lion from? isn't it illegal to collect exotic animals and then make them suffer through natural disasters that they do not have to endure in their natural habitat....???

    September 17, 2008 at 9:17 pm |
  14. Grant,Kansas

    be afraid be very afraid

    September 17, 2008 at 9:14 pm |
  15. Michael

    She is beutiful !!!! And very lucky she found a safe place.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:11 pm |
  16. unk

    ok, have we located all missing people? We can account for and report on the animals once we have done the previous mentioned!

    September 17, 2008 at 9:09 pm |
  17. sunny

    Where is FEMA ??????????

    September 17, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  18. Shane

    I think that lion is hungry, or maybe his stomack is already full? I can't imagine what he's digesting !

    September 17, 2008 at 8:57 pm |
  19. laff


    September 17, 2008 at 8:54 pm |
  20. Alan Robert Young

    Where "pray tell" are all the Christians.........

    September 17, 2008 at 8:54 pm |
  21. Kate

    she's absolutely beautiful. i hope she is being take care of too, to the best of anyone's ability. my best to everyone affected by Ike.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:54 pm |
  22. Sonia

    We Hindus believe that God in the form of Durga ( protector and destroyer of evil) rides on a Lion.. and Hindu Vedantist believe all peace loving religions are equal ..true and and right..Im thinking Durga's Lion went to check out on Christ and offer his followers a ride out of the storm..amen..

    September 17, 2008 at 8:51 pm |
  23. Chelsea Reedy, Denton Tx

    Even the king of the jungle has to answer to lord

    September 17, 2008 at 8:50 pm |
  24. Carol W.

    She's absolutely beautiful. Hope her owner is okay too.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:42 pm |
  25. Lela

    I've been saved! I ain't Lyin (lion)

    September 17, 2008 at 8:22 pm |
  26. Tim S

    Toss her (or him) a few chuck roasts (raw) for a few days then hit with a trak dart.

    That ought to do it, at least until it can be transported to a proper facility.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:21 pm |
  27. Amanda Walton-Gaston

    I think she's saying... "I thought it was Noah's ark all over again"!!!

    September 17, 2008 at 8:14 pm |
  28. Los Altos, CA

    The lioness crossed her paws, said grace...that is why you don't see the owner 😉

    September 17, 2008 at 8:08 pm |
  29. West

    The irony is that one usually goes to church to have the burdens and shackles lifted. In this case, the Shackle would be a burden!

    I imagine it was the owner who took the picture.

    September 17, 2008 at 7:58 pm |
  30. Patrick

    I hope the owner is not inside the lioness!

    September 17, 2008 at 7:56 pm |
  31. DUANE

    Noah said, the Ark is leaving before the big rain............lol

    September 17, 2008 at 7:46 pm |
  32. Jennifer

    She is gorgeous!

    September 17, 2008 at 7:41 pm |
  33. cathy

    This is one of the best photos I have ever viewed.
    I hope that her owner is there, and feeding her.
    I also pray that his other exotic pets were just a fortunate.
    I am curious who took this photo? And how did they get into
    the church..
    She is really quote beauiful.
    One of God's creatures.

    September 17, 2008 at 7:32 pm |
  34. Sehnaz

    Woow.. What a meaningful look. She looks like as if saying "is it over yet? Am I ok?"..

    September 17, 2008 at 7:27 pm |
  35. Betty Ann, Nacgdoches,Tx

    Hey David,
    i can not believe that the bolivar peninsula was so devastated. Gilchrist would be part of that. This is just a short ferry ride away from Galveston.
    I was just there in May to see the endangered roseated spoonbill's nesting ground. So many precious baby fluffy pink ones. I hope their habitat is not destroyed also.
    I had an evacuee in my home who was from Crystal Beach. His family home is gone. He also lost a trailer he could not get out.
    So many stories, so much suffering. Places all around my town are still without electricity.
    I don't know about that lion in the church. Wild is wild and should not be pets or trusted in an emergency situation. I love animals but domestic are the only ones created (by man) for pets.
    Blessings to all in Ike's path.~
    Two and for legged 😉

    September 17, 2008 at 7:22 pm |
  36. B. Howell

    Ah, the lion. A natural enemy of the Christian since Roman times. lol

    September 17, 2008 at 7:21 pm |
  37. Irene Bradley

    You think I would hurt you? I'm just a scaredy cat holding on for dear life.

    September 17, 2008 at 7:19 pm |
  38. Mike Keifman

    What time does church start?

    September 17, 2008 at 7:18 pm |
  39. Katherine Donovan, MD

    Poor thing... She looks so bewildered. It must have been as terrifying as it would be for a young child, who has no idea what is going on...

    September 17, 2008 at 7:18 pm |
  40. Sandra, Wadley Ga.

    "And the lion shall lie down with the lamb" as soon as the lamb gets there.

    September 17, 2008 at 7:08 pm |
  41. Stacy

    Thank you for the interesting image, but I'm shocked at how little information we're getting regarding the aftermath of Ike. Some are saying there's been a kind of media blackout. Is this true? Is getting the story difficult simply due to logistics or have officials been stopping you? What kind of job is FEMA doing? What is the body count? How are the survivors who stayed faring? What about those who fled? This is a huge story and I'm confused as to why it's not getting the same commitment CNN showed in 2005.

    September 17, 2008 at 7:07 pm |
  42. Lori Moran

    Akuna Matada...no worries! The big bad wind is gone!!!

    September 17, 2008 at 7:01 pm |
  43. Diane Horne Lindenhurst, IL

    Looks like she is saying "please somebody help me.

    September 17, 2008 at 6:58 pm |
  44. Clarence, Albuquerque

    If you see her cross her paws and lay her head down, she may be saying grace before a meal.

    September 17, 2008 at 6:45 pm |
  45. Jim

    The lion is just giving thanks to God that she made it through the storm- Now where is the " Owner"????????????????????????

    September 17, 2008 at 6:26 pm |