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Lion Camp

1

Ken and Dixie’s Bite Club

An African lion’s life is typically all about sleeping, napping and resting… but that isn’t necessarily true for the Safari Park’s Lion Camp rock stars. Ken and Dixie managed to start a secret Bite Club in their spare time. Keep reading for the official rules.

The 1st rule of Bite Club is, you don’t talk about Bite Club.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club
Photo by Ion Moe

The 2nd rule is, you DO NOT talk about Bite Club.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

A few practice chomps or chews are permitted before the bite begins.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club
Photo by Bob Worthington

Stalking your bite is optional.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club
Photo by Angie Bell

If a cub taps out or keepers call for lunch, the bite is over.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

Two cubs to a bite.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

No paws, no cheap shots.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

Bites will go on as long as they have to.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

No enrichment or outside items.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

Seriously…

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

If this is your first time at Bite Club, you have to bite.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club
Photo by Nathan Rupert

For more lion cub fun, watch the video below.

*Jenn Beening is the social media specialist for San Diego Zoo Global.

2

Roar & Snore: Sizzling Summertime Fun at Safari Park

There are many animal presentations throughout your Roar & Snore experience. The tiny pygmy falcon made a big impression on people.

There are many animal presentations throughout your Roar & Snore experience. The tiny pygmy falcon made a big impression on people.

There is really no better way to spend a summer evening than hassle-free camping under shooting stars with a warm breeze and a menagerie of animal calls echoing through the valley. The Roar & Snore Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park allows you to do just that, which my friend Teresa and I did in early July. There’s a choice of tent accommodation from Classic (what we chose) to Premium (includes a Queen-sized bed, rug, and lamps—more like “glamping” than camping). Roar & Snore Safaris feature Adults Only, Family Nights, and All Ages to choose from. Check in time is 4:15 p.m. and, while strapping young men transfer your luggage from your car to a van and deposit it at your tent, campers enjoy the first of several animal presentations in a shady area in front of the Safari Park entrance. We got to meet a surprisingly fast African leopard tortoise and a hyper-alert pygmy falcon while campers checked in.

Roar & Snore accommodations are rustic and comfortable. And you can’t beat the view!

Roar & Snore accommodations are rustic and comfortable. And you can’t beat the view!

We were divided into four groups, each sporting a nifty, glow-in-the-dark color-coded wristband, and we headed to camp. We settled into our digs and savored the view from Kilima Point, overlooking the African Plains habitat replete with giraffes, rhinos, buffalo, springbok, and more. After supper, as the shadows stretched long, our guide took us through the new Tiger Trail, and we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the tigers’ bedroom area and the keepers’ workspace. The structure is so well made and expertly ventilated, that if there was a wildfire, cats and keepers could hunker down in the building and stay safe.

On our way back to camp, we got another animal presentation featuring a darling little sugar glider (“the smallest marsupial”), a hypnotic sand python named Woma, whose flattish head indicates it is a shoveler of sand and soil, and a shy three-banded armadillo, which soon felt comfortable enough to unfurl for us. As we headed to see elephants, there was splashing and excitement in the air…with dusk descending, several of the elephants decided it was the perfect time to take a dip! In a tangle of trunks and trumpeting, the young pachyderms frolicked in the pool, as kids are wont to do. As one pushed another under water, its trunk opening would crack the surface like a periscope. Soon it would bob up and return the dunking. The giant matriarchs stood nearby, one tossing dirt on her back, another scratching against a log and bellowing every so often. It was a pool party I was happy to witness!

Seeing the animals at night was a truly magical experience.

Seeing the animals at night was a truly magical experience.

Returning to camp, where the fire was crackling, we were given the ingredients to make roasted marshmallow s’mores and had some time to relax and count stars before the next optional add-on: a walking tour with night vision goggles! Eight of us intrepid campers chose to participate, and we were given our super-power binoculars. With a push of a button, the eyepieces glowed night-vision green. I squealed with delight.

We headed out past Lion Camp to the Africa Tram road. It was magical—nighttime chirps and murmurs punctuated by the alto roar of Izu, the male lion. The air was cool and fragrant…and it was DARK. Outlines of palm trees and giraffes were all that were visible with the naked eye, but through the goggles, details and texture prevailed. Animal eyes reflected glowing green back at us. African crowned cranes stood stalk still, clearly visible through the goggles.

After our early morning tram tour, we saw the lion cubs Ken and Dixie warming up for the day.

After our early morning tram tour, we saw the lion cubs Ken and Dixie warming up for the day.

I was breathless with this whole new nocturnal world revealed to me. With the naked eye, about all you could see in the cheetah exhibit was an ear gliding by, but with the goggles, you could see her sleekness and spots clear as day. I wonder what she thought about this little group of upright apes peering at her through green orbs as she gracefully glided before us, comfortable in her own skin and the night. I will never, ever forget seeing the Safari Park with truly fresh eyes.

Karyl Carmignani is a staff writer for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Still Ga Ga for Gao Gao.

17

Lions: The Good Life

M’Bari: It’s good to be king!

We’ve had a lot of interest in an update on the San Diego Zoo’s largest felid pair, and since we just passed the three-year anniversary for the two lions here, it seemed like an appropriate time. When I think about the last few years for M’Bari and Etosha, the phrase “smooth sailing” comes to mind (see The Pride of Elephant Odyssey). The last three years with these two have been pretty tranquil. More than anyone, I think that the lions have enjoyed the quiet constants in their lives. At nearly nine years old, much of the playful behaviors of their days at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Lion Camp have been replaced with more mature endeavors.

M’Bari is a guy who appreciates his routine. As a creature of habit myself, I often feel a kinship with his way of life. His time spent on exhibit involves copious amounts of sleep broken up by the occasional need to eat, drink, or remind all of his adoring fans that he is big and you are in his house. During Nighttime Zoo, our guests get a special treat as he wakes from his slumber to enjoy his evening stroll. His evening routine includes patrolling his territory, calling loudly, and scent marking anything (or anyone) unlucky enough to get in his path.

M’Bari is maintaining much of the great husbandry behaviors he learned as a little guy through daily training sessions. He recently received his necessary vaccinations through a voluntary process in which he places his hip up against the fence to accept an injection. M’Bari is a great student…as long as you remember that he is the KING.

Etosha is definitely my choice for Miss Congeniality. This girl is as sweet as pie! Etosha is always happy to see her keepers, and she is always happy to see food. Her daily training sessions are met with great enthusiasm as she works to get the treats from the bucket to her mouth as quickly as possible. Etosha is also a champion sleeper, but she does take the opportunity to get a rise out of M’Bari from time to time. Particularly just following morning feedings, we see her rambunctious side come out. She stalks slowly toward M’Bari, creeping around the rockwork, and as quickly as her legs will take her, she rushes in and jumps on his back. M’Bari, feeling way too dignified for this kind of play, shuts these sessions down quickly by moving away and giving a little growl.

After three years working with Etosha, I am still amazed at just how well she can read her long-time mate. I often tell guests that we can read M’Bari pretty well, but Etosha can read him like a book. She always knows just how much she can get away with. Whether it be jumping on his back, choosing to lie down right in his spot, or pushing him aside to get to treats, she knows what he will tolerate and when she should lay low.

I would like to invite you all to come by and spend some time with M’Bari and Etosha. Whether you catch a feeding, a quick play session, or silent slumber, you will surely take away a sense of awe and maybe even a reminder to enjoy the quiet constants in your own life.

Jacob Shanks is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, Jaguar Cubs at One Month.

1

Roar & Snore Safari at the Safari Park

Roar and Snore camper looking out upon the East Africa Exhibit

Going in to last Friday’s Roar and Snore Safari sleepover at the Safari Park, I had no idea how literally the name would apply to the event. There was almost as much roaring as there was snoring, not by rambunctious guests, but by the Park’s three adult lions housed in the nearby Lion Camp exhibit. The highly vocal cats roared periodically throughout the night, almost as if on a schedule to entertain us. If you think coyotes howling at night is cool, this will blow you away. The surprising ratio of actual roaring to snoring was just one of the highlights of the Roar and Snore Safari. I’ve been to the Safari Park a million times but I had no idea that spending just one night there would forever alter my perspective of the Park and its animals.

After meeting in the preferred parking lot at the start of the event, unloading our bags and collecting our free t-shirts, we were treated to a presentation of an African pygmy falcon named Kipanga, whose constant vocalizing and posturing betrayed his serious Napoleon complex. Then we were herded through the near-empty Park to the Roar & Snore campground for a delicious buffet dinner. Keep in mind that the Park closes right around the time you get to the campground so you and your fellow campers essentially have all 900 acres of the Park to yourselves. You can almost trick yourself into thinking it was built just for you. It’s an incredible feeling.

The view from inside your tent

After dinner (which was far better than your average campground meal!) we split up into two groups and went off on a guided behind-the-scenes tour of the Park. The first stop of the tour was at the tiger exhibit, where we got a close look at the Park’s two 5-month-old Sumatran tiger cubs, Joanne & Majel. I had seen many photos and videos of the cubs but it was my first time seeing them in person and the experience was indescribable. They came right up to the fence to greet us and kept pacing back and forth curiously. It was amazing to look them in the eyes and have them stare back in that cold, calculating way that nature’s top predators do. They are being raised in a Zoo setting with human contact, but it surprised me just how WILD they seemed. It saddens me to think they are one of the most endangered species on the planet, with only about 400 left in the wild.

One of the Park's tiger cubs greeting Roar and Snore guests

After hanging with Joanne & Majel we cruised over to the Conifer Forest and met a few more animal ambassadors, such as a charming hedgehog and a ball python. Then we made our way to the elephant exhibit to have a look behind the scenes. Our jovial tour guide was like a walking animal trivia book, giving us constant insight into the animals at the Park and what it takes to care for them. Apparently the writers of the movie Jurassic Park visited the Safari Park’s elephant exhibit to get ideas for what it would take to enclose dinosaurs. Staring at the immense steel gates jutting into the night sky, I could see why.

Flashlights in hand, we continued over to Condor Ridge to check out native Southern Californian wildlife settling in for the night. As we were touring Condor Ridge I realized that the Park totally transforms after dark. Because it’s 40 miles from San Diego, there’s no light pollution and the stars shine bright. From up on Condor Ridge you can look out upon the entire Park and most of the San Pasqual Valley, listening to the calls of thousands of exotic animals in the dark. It’s enchanting. And seeing a California condor emerge from the dark by flashlight and spread its 10-foot wings is an image I’ll never forget.

After exploring Condor Ridge, we were led back to the campground to relax for a while and munch on all-you-can-eat smores (what would a camp out be without smores!) before our final nighttime foray into Lion Camp. When we got to Lion Camp we were led into the back holding area where both lionesses, Mina and Oshana, and the Park’s male lion, Izu, were lounging for the night. At one point one of the lionesses jumped up onto the glass to get a closer look at her admirers, but the most memorable moment for me was when Izu came close to the glass. Izu is significantly larger than his lady friends (about the size of a small car in my opinion), and his presence is intensely humbling.

Behind the scenes at Lion Camp

When we returned from Lion Camp it was time to grab some more coffee or hot chocolate and wind down for bed. In the morning we were treated to a delicious breakfast and a two-hour walking tour of the African Outpost and African Woods areas before we were led out to the entrance to complete our experience.

The Roar & Snore was definitely one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had. I’ll never forget drifting off to sleep amidst the cooing of African crowned cranes, the roaring of lions, and of course, the soft snoring of campers. And one thing is certain–I’ll never see the Safari Park the same again.

Matt Steele is the social media planner for the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, Winter Brewmaster Dinner Featuring Pizza Port.

Check out the rest of Matt’s pics on flickr.

4

Big Cat Preferences, Part 2

A lioness enjoys a pumpkin she "hunted" at Lion Camp.

Thanks to our wonderful and dedicated animal care team that takes care of the lions in our collection, the preference trials for the three lions at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Lion Camp have been completed (see Big Cat Preferences). After examining the time spent with the different objects, and the behaviors elicited by the objects, the information we are gathering is very interesting. First of all, while lions are spending some time with the natural scents (for example, warthog feces), the females spent the most time with objects that could be “hunted” (for example, gourds). By contrast, the male lion  almost always scent marks on browse clippings such as acacia. Thinking about the natural history of these animals, the preferences we are observing relate to the behavior of lions in the wild.

In a pride of lions, the females are the hunters, and providing gourds or other objects that can be “hunted” allows the animals to engage in this behavior. Have you ever seen a dog roll in droppings from another animal? Lions roll in feces to hide their scent from prey species, and this is exactly what we are seeing with some of the different scents, including warthog feces, during the preference tests. In addition, male lions mark their territory, and by providing fresh browse we are also providing this opportunity to scent mark.

Moreover, providing environmental enrichment for animals helps keep them both physically and psychologically healthy by promoting species-appropriate behavior and providing the animals some control within their environment. Through assessment of enrichment preferences, we hope to determine not only what the animals prefer, but also which enrichment elicits behavior similar to that observed in the wild. This, in turn, allows the animals to engage in behaviors they are motivated to perform, ensuring we are providing the highest quality of care for animals within the collection.

On your next visit to the Safari Park, you might notice some new cameras at Lion Camp. The next phase of this project will be to examine how different enrichment preferences affect behavior over 24 hours. The cameras that have been installed allow us to examine behavior, even during the evening, to continue to learn more about these complex and amazing animals.

Until next year, happy holidays everyone!

Lance Miller is a scientist for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

42

Lion Cubs: All Grown

Ekundu, top, and Nyack from earlier this year.

Where has the time gone? It really does seem like only yesterday when we watched as the eight African lion cubs attacked the boxes and frozen treat enrichment items we put out for their first birthday celebration in November 2008 (see Lion Cubs Turn One). Now, only one of our “pride of cubs” remains with us at Lion Camp at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park: Ekundu, the smallest of Oshana and Izu’s two boys. All the others are settled into their new homes across the country with loving and glowing reports from their new keepers.

Laini, Tamu, and Ingozi were the first to leave. It was a sunny January morning when we loaded them into their crates and placed each crate into a modified stock trailer. It was hard to let the first of our cubs go, but we knew all of these cubs were born with a mission: to go out into the world and help keep the captive lion population diversified and strong. Oshana’s two girls, Laini and Tamu, were sent to Jacksonville, Florida, where they were introduced to a young male. Their keepers tell us stories of Laini and Tamu chasing turtles and lounging in the Florida sunshine. Mina’s boy, Ingozi, was sent to St. Louis, Missouri. He has been paired up with a young lioness. Their keepers tell us stories of Ingozi and his girlfriend romping around their exhibit, climbing trees, and engaging in a rambunctious game of tag.

Then Mina’s smallest girl, Kaya, headed off to the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona. When she got to her new home, she was greeted by her personal staff and a news crew documenting her arrival. Her keepers tell us she enjoys her pond and her favorite toys.

Shortly after Kaya got to her new home, a van arrived at Lion Camp from Wildlife Safari in Oregon to pick up her sister, Sarabi; she was escorted safely to her new home by her own personal entourage. Her keepers tell us Sarabi settled into her new home well. They say she is playful and fun and enjoys chasing the birds.

Next to leave was Oshana’s biggest boy, Zawadi. His ride showed up to take him to his new home in Portland, Oregon. He arrived there safe and sound, with two lionesses waiting for him. His keepers tell us he rests on his back and looks lazily at his world from his upside-down vantage point (a habit he shares with his father, Izu).

Our hand-raised boy, Nyack, left for his new home in April. It was a bittersweet sendoff for his keepers. He arrived at his new home in Indianapolis safely and made it through his 30-day quarantine without a problem. His keepers tell us they are working on building their own relationship with him and are looking forward to introducing him to his new female companions.

Ekundu is our last “cub,” although he’s hardly a cub anymore at two-and-a-half years old and 365 pounds (166 kilograms). He is waiting to go to his new home, and until then we are happy to keep him here.

It was quite an adventure having all those cubs—Lion Camp had never been so full of challenges and lions! As for now, it’s nice to have a bit of time to regroup. One can never tell what the future may bring, but whatever happens, we should be ready.

Amy Whidden-Winter is a senior keeper at the Wild Animal Park.

26

The Pride of Elephant Odyssey

Etosha enjoys a bone.

Etosha enjoys a bone.

Arguably one of the most impressive statues found in Elephant Odyssey’s Mammoth Plaza at the San Diego Zoo is that of the American lion. Weighing in at almost half a ton, this massive carnivore is the largest variety of lion known to man. The American lion also once had one of the largest ranges of any mammal, with individuals living from the Yukon Territory in Canada all the way down through Peru. Yet as impressive as this life-sized model is, it is almost impossible to compete with the magnificence of its Elephant Odyssey modern-day counterparts. Just across the way from the enormous American lion statue lives a beautiful pair of African lions.

 

The American lion statue gets installed in Elephant Odyssey.

The American lion statue gets installed in Elephant Odyssey.

This new exhibit allows for unprecedented views of the always charismatic M’bari and Etosha. Whether they are sleeping under an acacia tree, perched on top of a rocky outcropping, or resting peacefully in their glass-fronted cave, you are sure to enjoy an unforgettable view of them. The glass-fronted cave area has quickly become a favorite spot for both cats and guests alike. Not only does the cave offer air conditioning for those warm summer days, but it also comes equipped with large “hot rocks” on the floor. Much of the summer was spent lounging in the cave’s cool air-conditioned breezes, and now as it is cooling off, the hot rocks are the place to be. With the flip of a switch, the man-made rocks can warm up to a toasty 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius). The cave also offers an extremely close view of the cats, with just a piece of glass between you and these amazing carnivores. The intimate nature of this entire exhibit allows for an opportunity to connect with these animals as you have never been able to do before.

 

Mbari and his new Spray Zone sign

M

Just about every day I hear another guest exclaim that they have never been so close to a lion before. But this close proximity to our cats has come at a price: with this exhibit the San Diego Zoo’s Spray Zone was born! It seems M’bari has a fondness for spraying anything within his reach with urine, and with a range of nearly 10 feet (3.5 meters), guests often find themselves in the line of fire. Two signs strategically placed outside this exhibit remind our guests of this funny but messy habit of his.

 

If the names M’bari and Etosha sound familiar, don’t be surprised. These two made their home at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park for almost five years before coming to the Zoo. Both were original members of the fantastic Lion Camp exhibit and were rather popular with both keepers and guests.

At 430 pounds (195 kilograms), M’bari is the largest cat in the Zoo’s collection. His enormous head, gigantic paws, and near-perfect mane wow the crowds on a daily basis. Etosha may not be the largest of all the cats, but she is definitely a contender for the cat with the largest heart. I have had the honor of working with many cats over the years, but I don’t think that I have known one as “lovey” and sweet as Etosha. Her “good morning” vocalizations always start my day off right. Both cats are wonderful additions to the Zoo’s already amazing animal collection, and certainly both cats have contributed to the big success of Elephant Odyssey by helping to represent their not-so-distant cousin, the American lion.

Jacob Shanks is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

Listen to M’bari and Etosha greet Jacob from their bedroom:

32

Lion Cubs Turn One

Ingozi dashes over to see what Kaya has.It’s hard to believe that our little cubs at the Wild Animal Park’s Lion Camp are already one year old. Where did the time go? (see blog, Lion Cubs Grow by the Minute.) It seems like only yesterday we were looking into those soft brown eyes, wondering, “Are you Tamu or Laini?” “Is your left shoulder or left hip to be shaved?” Now I look into those eyes and a whole personality appears.

Oshana’s boy Zawadi is the biggest of all the cubs. Weighing in at 198 pounds (90 kilograms), he is quite the presence. He has a laid-back demeanor with the keepers and with the other cubs most of the time, but he can be quite the lion when he wants something. When he sets his sights on a toy or food item, he doesn’t hesitate to muscle his way in; usually with one or two hearty growls he manages to take whatever object he desires. He’s a handsome guy with a blond mane sprouting from his wide head and just the hint of a dark mane on his throat and chest. His eyes are light brown with a gold tint that blends with his golden coat color. He looks so much like his older half brother Kamau, at times. When looking at Zawadi it is almost like looking back in time when Kamau was his age.

Laini and Ingozi inspect a colorfully wrapped treat.Oshana’s other boy, Ekundu, is the second heaviest of all the cubs at 170 pounds (77 kilograms). Like his brother, he also has a laid-back attitude, but instead of growling like Zawadi to get what he wants, Ekundu just uses his weight and is often seen flopping on top of another cub. Ekundu almost appears polite; when he finishes his meal before the cub next to him, he will walk away. When told by his keepers he is “all done,” he rarely pushes the other cubs away from their food.

My favorite Ekundu story happened a while ago. It was the first time Nyack, our hand-raised cub (see blog, New Cub Joins Lion Camp Pride) was allowed to have a rabbit with all the other cubs. Nyack walked into the large chute area with his rabbit in his mouth. All the other cubs were busy munching their rabbits and Nyack walked by each one cautiously. He came up to his best friend Ingozi; Nyack appeared to be proudly showing him his rabbit. Ingozi snarled and batted the rabbit out of Nyack’s mouth, put his paw over his new acquisition, and growled harshly at Nyack. Nyack seemed confused and frightened; he retreated to the end of the chute, huddled in the corner, and bellowed a low long cry over and over. Ekundu came out from an adjoining room and looked down the chute at Ingozi holding two rabbits and Nyack crying in the corner. Ekundu then strolled over to Ingozi and, quick as can be, snatched a rabbit away from Ingozi, marched it down the chute, dropped it right in front of Nyack, and then turned and walked away. If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes I don’t think I would have believed it!

Ingozi pounces on a cardboard critter.Next in Oshana’s litter is her daughter Tamu, the smallest of all the cubs, weighing 151 pounds (69 kilograms). She has a darker, ruddy coat color and an old scar circling her right eye, the remains of some squabble or misstep out on exhibit. She’s a voracious eater and a quick learner. Tamu attaches herself to toys and will hold on with claws, baring her teeth at whoever comes to investigate. She is often the victim of Ekundu’s body flops; he doesn’t seem too intimidated by her possessive snarls, and it often makes him more curious when she is defending some prize.

Oshana’s other daughter, Laini, is one of the biggest females, weighing in at 160 pounds (73 kilograms). She’s smart and very communicative. Laini will greet her keepers with a hearty snarl and hiss, only to offer intense focus when asked to cooperate with learning new behaviors. She’s a quick learner and will watch her trainer intently, waiting for her next cue. Although she is almost 10 pounds heavier than her sister, Tamu, they look so much alike we sometimes have to look them in the face to tell “who is who.” Laini is stubborn when asked to come down off one of the high benches and shift to another room, but cooperates quickly when asked at a training session.

At 168 pounds (77 kilograms), Mina’s daughter Sarabi is the heaviest of all the female cubs. Lighter, almost gray in color, her square jowls and slender muzzle make her look older than her one year. As a young cub she seemed like a “tough girl,” warning off the boys and greeting her keepers with a hiss and a snarl. As she’s gotten older, she doesn’t appear to be quite as brave. When new enrichment is placed in one of the rooms, she seems leery and usually waits for another cub to investigate before she moves in to check it out. Sarabi is more trusting and curious with her keepers and will approach, although cautiously, when a keeper presents an unusual item, usually to assist in training.

Mina’s other daughter Kaya weighs 160 pounds (73 kilograms). She’s light in color like her sister and shares the same medium brown eyes. Kaya seems like she has a busy mind, an independent thinker like her Aunt Oshana, often appearing to be more concerned with what another cub is doing instead of what she is doing. Kaya is bold with new objects and is often one of the first ones to explore new enrichment items. She is playful and will hoard bones, or especially good enrichment items, from the other cubs. When approached by another cub intent on taking a toy or bone away, Kaya can turn into a pure lioness, growling, snarling, and holding on with muscles and claws.

Ingozi is Mina’s only boy, weighing 165 pounds (75 kilograms); he is the second smallest of all the male cubs. He has a sweet, almost comical disposition. Ingozi is shorter in stature and has dark brown, wide-set eyes, giving him a gentle appearance. His right upper lip is often caught on his teeth, allowing the tip of his tongue to stick out between his lips. He is cooperative with his training but quite independent. Ingozi was the first cub introduced to Nyack (our hand-raised cub) and still will call out to him if Nyack is shifted into another room out of Ingozi’s sight. The two cubs often sleep next to each other.

Nyack is 163 pounds (74. kilograms); he is one month younger than the other cubs and yet weighs only 2 pounds (0.91 kilograms) less than his cousin, Ingozi. Nyack is one of the pride of cubs. He is quite independent and fits in well with all the cubs. His mane has been coming in dark and shaggy, yet he still has spots on his legs and his face. His head is long and narrower with almost a “Roman-type” profile. He has become very possessive of his food and will fight anyone who tries to take a taste. Nyack and Ingozi are almost constant companions, with Sarabi often found resting with them. Nyack seems quite taken with her and will walk in front of her, waving his favorite toy (an old phonebook) in an attempt to get her to follow him and play.

These cubs grow and change daily. What a fun experience it has been to observe this process. I can hardly wait to see what happen next!

Amy Whidden Winter is a keeper at the Wild Animal Park.

Moderator’s note: We celebrated the first birthdays of all eight cubs on Tuesday, November 11. There was a frozen cake and other frozen treats for the cubs, as well as cardboard critters for them to play with, made by the Park’s Conservation Corps students. The next “party” for the cubs will be on Sunday, November 16. It is for the Conservation Corps; as they were unable to attend the festivities on Tuesday, we are having them come and place the rest of their enrichment animals on exhibit for the cubs. The keepers are going to add a few bloodsicles, too! It should all be happening around 9:30 a.m.