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Category — General Zoo

Lion Keeper’s Gif Blog

For this week’s “Lion Keeper’s Blog”, I wanted to do things a little differently. They say a picture is worth a thousand words… so what does that make a gif worth? A million? Sure, let’s go with a million. In that case, this will be my longest blog post ever. :) Here’s a quick recap of the cubs’ first 6 weeks of life and all the amazing things they’re learning as they grow into real lions.
Everyone knows the cubs are cute.
close up cub 1
I mean, just look at that face?! How can you not fall in love?
But there’s a lot more to becoming a lion than just being cute.
It’s actually a lot of hard, exhausting work!
no more pictures
The cubs have a pretty massive skill-set to hone before they are considered the “King of Beasts”.
The cubs spend a lot of time watching momma, Imani, to learn all the essentials of becoming a proper lion.
yawn and boop
“And that’s how you yawn.”
“Now, let’s start with one of the most basic feline behaviors: grooming! Here, I better do it for you.”
tuck and clean
“Thanks Momma, I’m clean!!”
come back here, bath time
“Seriously Mom!!! We can do it ourselves! We’ll show you!”
groom the tail
Imani says: “That’s… that’s not right.”
Cub #1 grooms Cub #3 while Cub #2 grooms Imani’s tail tuft.
At least they seem to be mastering some skills.
Like… walking:
totter and crash
And climbing…
try to climb
mom, mom, mom
And stalking and pouncing on your unsuspecting victim…
tackle and flop
Gravity makes it tough.
The key to a successful hunt is selecting an appropriate prey item.
get that paw
Like this defenseless paw!!
Okay, so maybe becoming a lion is harder than it looks.
For now, the cubs will probably just stick to what they know best…
“My nipple feels weird! Oh right.”
And snuggling…
in the middle
And sleeping!
sniff and yawn
And one day, they’ll be big and strong lions, just like Imani…
pretty mani
And John!
john lick

January 6, 2015   11 Comments

Saving Scarlet Macaws in Guatemala

One of the largest and most brilliantly colored macaws, the scarlet macaw inhabits the tropical forests of Central and South America. Despite its large range, scarlet macaw populations in Central America suffer greatly from the pet trade, hunting and habitat loss. The Zoo supports scarlet macaw conservation in Guatemala through the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre (ARCAS).

Scarlet macaw (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Scarlet macaw (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

ARCAS collaborates with other organizations to ensure the survival of the scarlet macaw within the Mayan Biosphere Reserve through the Macaws Without Borders consortium. In addition to rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife, ARCAS also conducts environmental education activities as well as breeds scarlet macaws with the aim of reintroducing them to bolster the wild population, which is estimated at fewer than 150 scarlet macaws in Guatemala.

ARCAS entrance sign

ARCAS entrance sign

ARCAS initiated its scarlet macaw breeding program in 2004 at the Rescue Centre. Since then, it has successfully fledged two to four birds a year for a total of 45 so far. It has had to overcome obstacles including attacks by Africanized bees and margays, thefts and parasitic infestations of nest boxes. There are now nearly 100 scarlet macaws at the Centre (captive-bred and rescues), an important genetic stock for future reintroduction efforts. ARCAS is currently laying the groundwork to establish an ongoing release program in the Sierra Lacandon National Park where it plans to release up to six macaws per year to reinforce the severely depleted population in the park.

A breeding pair of scarlet macaws at the Centre

A breeding pair of scarlet macaws at the Centre

Flight cage at the Centre

Flight cage at the Centre

Funds supplied by the Zoo have been used to construct an incubation house for chicks requiring special care and new flight cages that enable the fledgling birds to fly and strengthen their muscles in preparation for their eventual release into the wild. The Zoo also funds field trips for local students to visit the ARCAS center and learn about the scarlet macaw program.

Scarlet macaw fledgling

Scarlet macaw fledgling

January 2, 2015   No Comments

Lion Keeper’s Blog: The Trouble Cubbies

Weeks 5 and 6 of the lion cubs’ lives have been some of the most exciting so far!  The level of physical activity we’ve seen from the cubs has grown exponentially!  Our sweet, sleepy little lion lumps have morphed into bold, mischievous and active cubs. They are even starting to look more like little lions!  Their teeth have erupted and they are beginning to run (sort of) and stalk each other.  They’re still a little unsteady on their feet… often walking like they’re on the rocking deck of a ship at sea.  But with each passing day, they grow more coordinated and purposeful in their adventures.  One of their favorite pastimes is playing with Imani’s tail tuft! Sometimes Imani will get up to walk away and whichever cub is attached at the time gets drug around for a little ride.

Cub #2’s newly erupted teeth are easily visible in this photo.

Cub #2’s newly erupted teeth are easily visible in this photo.

Cub #1 continues to live up to its reputation as the group’s pioneer.  Often #1 would come over to the mesh and try to steal little bites whenever the keepers fed Imani.  At first, it seemed like #1 was just suckling on the meat and exploring it, rather than actually eating it.  Fortunately, Imani’s favorite diet item (a nutritionally complete ground meat) is the perfect starter meat for a baby carnivore.  The mushy texture is easily swallowed and requires little to no chewing or tearing.  Cub #1 has definitely developed a taste for it, and now keepers are actually able to feed tiny little meatballs to Cub #1 straight through the mesh!

Cub #1 poses for a picture.

Cub #2 continues to be the shyest and most reserved of the bunch.  Cub #2 is still a little apprehensive about the keepers getting too close, but it seems to find its strength from its siblings.  If Cubs 1 and 3 come over to investigate, Cub #2 usually isn’t far behind.  But Cub #2 definitely likes to keep a safe healthy distance between itself and the strange two-leggers.  Although 2 usually prefers to observe its siblings’ antics from a safe distance, it is constantly pushed outside of its comfort zone by its bold and inquisitive siblings.  From what I’ve observed of “Cub World”, you don’t always have a say in whether or not you participate in playtime.

Cub #3 surprised everyone when it became the first cub to successfully cross over the threshold between holding rooms and venture next door!  All 3 cubs had been working on tackling this milestone for the last couple of weeks, but it was our little underdog cub that finally made the big climb (which, incidentally, is about 10 inches tall).  Once cub #3 had crossed over, it seemed to open the flood gates and then all 3 cubs spent the next hour or so investigating this magical new space (which is nearly identical to the nest box they’ve occupied for their first 5 weeks of life).

Imani, always the prudent mother, followed them over and spent a while trying to round them up and replace them in the nesting den.  Unfortunately, it was a bit like the chocolate factory episode of “I Love Lucy”.  Every time Imani managed to get one cub back over into the nest box, another was already crawling across the threshold back into the taboo holding next door.

The cubs’ great southern exploration provided John with a new, completely unrestricted view of them for the first time from across the hall.  With no “privacy plywood” impeding his line of sight, John watched in fascination as his little progeny tottered around excitedly and thwarted Imani’s efforts to round them up and relocate them to the nest area.  Poor Imani seemed a little exasperated by her unruly and uncooperative cubs and eventually crossed over into the nesting area, laid down and seemingly gave up on trying to corral the wily bunch.  Fortunately, within about 10 minutes, the cubs seemed to realize that Momma had “disappeared” and all three climbed back over the threshold on their own to rejoin her for a quick nursing session and a long recuperative nap from such an laborious adventure.


All 3 cubs are kept in the holding den using the mesh howdy door so Imani can have a few minutes of alone time.


Imani rolls on the ground, enjoying a rare moment of alone time!

The next day, when keepers gave the cubs and Imani access to the neighboring den again, Imani seemed much more relaxed about the set-up.  She didn’t even try to bring the cubs back into the nesting area when they crossed the threshold, and she seemed to have resigned herself to the fact that the cubs could now go back and forth as they pleased and there wasn’t much she could do about it.  Most days, Imani and the cubs actually choose to spend most of their time in the “new den” which sits directly across from John, right in his line of sight.  It’s a fortunate turn of events that will actually help us towards transitioning John back into the group and establishing a proper lion pride.


John waits patiently across the hall to meet the cubs.

On the horizon for the family: The cubs’ first wellness exams (will be scheduled mid-January) where we will finally learn the genders of our 3 cubs!  Shortly after that, we’ll begin the process of introductions to Dad!

Three Cubs

Cub #3 licking Cub #2’s ear. Cub #1 looking unimpressed in front.

December 31, 2014   9 Comments