World Lion Day 2022
The team at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm celebrate all things lion.
Wednesday 10 August is World Lion Day – a day for us all to celebrate and learn more about these fierce and majestic feline creatures. The sheer power, beauty and skill of these big cats is nothing short of breath-taking, and it comes as no surprise that lions are one of the most popular animals to see here at the zoo!
The human fascination with lions can be traced back for tens of thousands of years to when cave paintings first featured lions as organised, fearsome hunters, and over time they have come to be closely associated with clan and tribal identities. In modern times the symbol of a lion is hugely prevalent in our cultures around the world – from sports teams to costumes at new year, to confectionary packaging, to popular animated films. Lions truly are one of the most recognisable and celebrated creatures in the animal kingdom!
It is important to acknowledge that the roots of World Lion Day are in conservation and the mission to protect these amazing animals. Therefore, this annual celebration is also an opportunity to raise awareness and learn more about these beautiful big cats, and what we as humans can do to help protect and preserve them.
At Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm we are supporting the conservation of these incredible species through our summer event, Elephant Parade. The sponsorship of the Elephant Sculptures by local businesses has raised funds for conservation charities who support lions and their habitats. You can help support lion conservation by visiting this summer and purchasing an Elephant Parade Souvenir Guide or by adopting one of our lions!
To celebrate World Lion Day this week we had a chat with Emily, one of the African lion keepers here at Noah’s Ark, to learn more about our own pride of lions and their species.
What lions do we have here at Noah’s Ark?
We have a pride of four African lions here at Noah’s Ark:
- Masai – Dad, our dominant male of the pride who is thirteen years old.
- Arusha- Mum, our lioness who is eleven years old.
- Kojo and Tau, Masai and Arusha’s sons, who will turn four on 12th
A pride typically has between two and 40 lions and is dominated by lionesses – this makes our pride a bit unique! In the wild, young male lions would eventually leave to establish their own prides.
To ensure our pride can get along well together here, Kojo and Tau have been neutered to reduce their testosterone and this means they are less likely to fight Masai for dominance. However, when this happens, the lions lose their ability to grow a mane – which is why they often get mistaken for lionesses! But overall, this means our lions all get along very well together and there aren’t any serious fights!
What sort of personalities do our lions have?
There is certainly a variety between them! Masai is confident and fearless but can also be a bit unmotivated. Kojo is like his dad - confident and thinks he can take on the world but is also more enthusiastic and cooperative. Arusha and Tao have slightly more nervous dispositions.
What do lions eat? How often do they eat?
We feed them three to four times a week to mirror their natural eating patterns. In the wild they don’t eat every day, partly because their hunts often don’t end in a kill but also because their digestive systems cannot accommodate it. The success rate of hunts in the wild is only around 30 per cent! If they did eat every day, it could cause health issues - obesity being the main one as lions can gain weight very easily.
In the wild lions eat all sorts of things: from springhares to antelope to zebras to impala. Due to their low success rate when hunting, they can’t afford to be too fussy! At the zoo they are mostly fed red meat and occasionally white meat. Each lion has a weekly allowance of what they can eat. During the summer months they are on 100kg, so around 25kg each per week.
How much do the lions weigh?
Masai is 205kg, Arusha is 137kg, Kojo is 220kg and Tau is 190kg.
When do lions sleep?
They sleep a lot up to 18 hours per day! They sleep during the day, at night, and especially after a big feed or when the weather is warm. They are most active when there are cooler temperatures; for this reason, they do a lot of their hunting at night!
Are lions endangered? What threats do lions face in the wild?
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) have listed lions as ‘vulnerable’ on their Red List – this is the second most critical category of concern. This is because many populations of lions are in decline, due to human conflict. We care deeply about lion conservation.
What is the lifespan of a lion?
In the wild it is between 12 and 14 years. A male lion will be in his prime around the age of seven years. The natural lifespan of male and female lions is about the same, although males are more likely to die earlier because of how much they fight. In zoos lions can live to around 20 years old due to the stable diets, access to vets and medicines.
Why do lions have manes?
Male lions have manes so that they can protect themselves in an attack – when animals fight, they often go for the vulnerable parts of their opponents’ bodies, such as the neck which a mane helps to shield. However, a mane also signals strength and status, and helps to attract a mate.
What is involved in being a lion keeper?
Picking up a lot of poo! You have to build a keen awareness of the pride’s dynamics, their personalities and behaviours, and know when they might be upset after a scrap and consequently need to be separated for a bit. On the days that we feed them we also carry out a “full clean” – this means poo-picking each field and thoroughly cleaning their dens and yards before giving them their food.
We carry out regular faecal screenings to check for parasite, worms, or worm eggs. To do this we collect samples of their poo for three consecutive days and then analyse them under a microscope.
We also do training with them to prepare them for health checks and vaccinations. Kojo is my superstar with training – he now knows exactly what to do. I get him to come into his den and lie down with his leg pressed against the mesh ready for an injection. We give them a big treat to reward them for staying calm and taking the injection well.
What is your favourite thing about being a lion keeper? Do you have a special bond with any one of them?
I do particularly enjoy the lion training – it helps to create a bond between you and the lion, and they gain your trust.
I do love Tau, but I feel most closely bonded to Kojo, because I spend the most time with him.