It’s a Winter Wonderland

Carnivores, Cheetahs, Community, Uncategorized

This winter season we had some fun events going on like Zoo Lights and Photos With Santa with a guest appearance from one of our cheetah ambassadors, Khayam and Mchumba!

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Guests had lots of fun walking through our spectacular holiday light show throughout our village, all synched to the playing music.  They also got to enjoy a show in the theater put on by the Village staff and hear a bit about cheetahs with Khayam and Mchumba with our Cheetah/Carnivore staff!

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Carols – Not Just For Christmas

Carnivores, Creature Feature

Even if you’ve never heard one, you probably know that their characteristic roar. However, lions also make a variety of other sounds and vocalizations including calls that we refer to as caroling. Now before you start picturing a lion choir, caroling is a lot less melodic than the Christmas carols we hear at this time of year.

For lions, caroling is the biggest noise they can make. They use their diaphragm to force the sound out and the resulting roar can travel for miles around. Lions carol for a few reasons, both inside the pride and to outsiders. Males carol to communicate to other, roaming males that may be passing their territory, to warn them to stay away. Members of the same pride also carol to communicate to each other while hunting, when they may be some distance away from each other.

Tsavo and Enzie

Tsavo and Enzie, Our adult male lions – Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

“Lions have a unique voice,” says Bednarz, “so when they carol they can actually tell each other apart.” They can even recognize how many voices are caroling, so approaching males will judge by the number of competitors whether they want to challenge them or steer clear.

Enzi – Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

One of the little cubs – Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Wildlife Safari’s lion pride has ten voices to join in with caroling this year, with two litters of cubs (two 10-month old cubs and four 6-month old cubs). Jordan Berdnarz, Lead Carnivore Keeper and Primary Trainer for the adult lions, has been with these particular lions since they first came to the park. Bednarz says these cubs are important for a variety of reasons, firstly, because they are extremely genetically valuable for conservation purposes within the captive population. Closer to home, though, these cubs are tremendously important to Wildlife Safari as our first lion cubs born in 23 years. “These litters are really special to us,” says Bednarz.

As Christmas approaches, keepers wait in anticipation of giving our lion pride some wonderful holiday themed enrichment… Christmas trees!¬† After Christmas, as the decorations start coming down, Wildlife Safari accepts donated Christmas trees which we give to our animals. All across the park the animals love these strange, tall toys. “Our lions absolutely love them!” Says Bednarz. “Especially our males.” Even old trees that are long past their prime are much enjoyed by the lions all year long, and as the cub’s first Christmas, keepers eagerly await their reaction to their first Christmas tree!

“Any first for the cubs is really fun,” says Bednarz. “They’re very curious.”

Lion cubs at Wildlife Safari playing with their tug-o-war rope – Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

So if you feel like you need an extra boost of Christmas cheer, come visit and see our caroling pride get into the Christmas spirit!

Mama lions and all the kids – Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

 

Holiday Enrichment

Behind the Scenes, Carnivores

On Halloween weekend keepers got into the holiday spirit by giving out pumpkins! Our tigers, bears and lions all got huge pumpkins to play with, each filled with fun things like popsicles, maple syrup and other yummy snacks. Many of our animals love playing with pumpkins – they can roll them, bite them, crack them open to get treats. The more exciting the enrichment the better, we love to see our animals playing and having fun.
‘Enrichment’ is what we call it when we give something exciting to our animals. Toys, fun foods, scents, boxes – anything that makes life interesting. Keepers tailor enrichment to each animal, considering how they would play with it or why they would find it interesting. Animals can play for hours with some enrichment, or curl up and sleep in it (mostly ferrets for that last one).

Lion cubs with their Halloween enrichment Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Lion cubs with their Halloween enrichment
Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Giving animals enrichment is an important part of keeping them healthy. It keeps them active physically with play, but also gives them mental stimulation. Animals get bored just like we do, and giving them something new or different everyday is a fun way to shake things up.

Safety is number one for keepers, for people and for animals, so we make sure the toys we give them are safe. No choking hazards, things that will make them sick, or things they could get stuck in.

Each animal has their favorite enrichment too. For example, our skunk loves things that smell, our tigers are big fans of elephant poop, and our cheetahs love exploring- so we move them regularly to other enclosures.

Brave adventurer: the first lion cub to investigate the pumpkins Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Brave adventurer: the first lion cub to investigate the pumpkins
Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

It helps when keepers get to know our animals’ personalities. That way we can avoid giving them things they’re not interested in, or might be nervous around. Our Red Lored Amazon, for example, is scared of polka dots and the color pink… Now, we’re not sure that makes sense, but we respect his fears and his toys are always polka-dot-free!

Our pride of lions took some time to warm up to their pumpkins, but once one cub went to investigate, the others jumped in!

Safety in Numbers: the lions checking out their pumpkin enrichment Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Safety in Numbers: the lions checking out their pumpkin enrichment
Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Our Sumatran tigers particularly enjoyed their pumpkins, going straight to stalk-and-pounce mode.

Our Sumatran tiger, Riya, with her pumpkin. Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Our Sumatran tiger, Riya, with her pumpkin.
Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow