All Five Lions are Enjoying Their Outdoor Digs
It’s amazing how far our lion introductions have progressed in the last month – all five are together and spending their days in their new Encounter Africa outdoor exhibit! In last month’s Waterhole, we reported that our Zoo’s new male lion, Abuto, had his paws full being introduced to our four lionesses – Angie, the matriarch, and sisters Lomela, Zwena and Jamila. At the time they were not a fully integrated pride, and all of the intros were in their dayroom.
“Even though they’ve come a long way, they still have a ways to go before the girls completely accept Abuto,” Dina Bredahl, Animal Care Manager said. “They are still testing him, swatting at him and vocalizing, but those interactions are fewer and usually happen first thing in the morning or late in the day.”
The lionesses’ behavior with Abuto is completely normal and similar to how females in the wild would react to a new male in a pride. Just like prides in the wild, the dynamics of our group continues to change as the lions adjust to one another.
When intros first started, Abuto appeared to be the most compatible with Angie and Zwena. When Lomela was introduced to the group, she started spats with Abuto without vocal warning. As Lomela started showing acceptance, keepers introduced the final female, Jamila. By herself, Jamila backed down quickly after starting spats. However, as a group of five, she is often the instigator of conflict and occasionally will get her sisters to back her up.
“The girls are tough,” Jeremy Dillon, Animal Behavior Programs Manager, said. “But Abuto has quickly learned how to find defendable positions.”
Just last week, Bredahl and Dillon observed neutral and positive lion interactions, too.
“It’s very encouraging to see that the interactions among the lions are starting to transition toward positive encounters,” Bredahl said. “Positive interactions include approaching each other without vocalizing or swatting and laying in close proximity to each other while remaining calm.”
Lomela and Zwena have both laid for extended periods of time less than 10 feet away from Abuto. Angie seems more and more interested in smelling and interacting with him, though animal keepers report she hasn’t followed through with making positive contact yet.
“Jamila is still our ‘pot-stirrer,’” Dillon said. “But it seems like even she’s starting to come around. Once everyone gets even more comfortable with each other, we will start to add cooperative feeding, additional toys and animal demonstrations to their routine.”
Come see our lions interacting and enjoying their huge new outdoor habitat. The space boasts three heated rocks, a waterhole, two viewing levels, natural tree deadfall for climbing, a den and an interactive Cape buffalo sculpture.