July 8, 2006
By Vickie Welborn
FRIERSON -- Moses the lion cub is settling into his new home at Yogie and Friends Exotic Cat Sanctuary.
The 4-month-old cub returned Friday afternoon after growing healthy enough to return to his birthplace. Moses has been hand-raised at the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge in Tyler, Texas, since shortly after his surprise Feb. 27 birth.
Moses is the product of an unsuccessful vasectomy that allowed him to be born to two adult lions, Boo Boo and Batman, who share the same pen at Yogie and Friends. Unfortunately, Boo Boo, a first-time mother, did not bond with her cub, prompting Yogie and Friends co-founders Tim Mills and Jenny Senier to place him temporarily with the Tyler refuge.
Moses suffered health problems at the beginning, and his survival was touch-and-go at first.
But at a healthy 35 pounds, Moses was ready Friday for a return trip to the Frierson sanctuary. His departure from Tiger Creek on Friday afternoon was an emotional one for his handlers.
"I'm excited and a little nervous," said Senier of her first hands-on experience with a lion club. "Tim has done this before, but not me."
Moses is no longer bottle-fed; he's eating about four pounds of meat a day.
Some donations from the public helped Mills and volunteers to build a 1,000-square foot pen that will serve as Moses' home until he reaches about 100 pounds. Then, he'll be incorporated into a pen with the other lions.
Still, Moses' new surroundings will be larger than what he's grown up in at the Tyler refuge.
"He'll be surrounded by the other lions, so he has the sights, smells and sounds of his family around him," Senier said.
Mills, who lives on the property, and Senier will keep a close eye on Moses as he gets used to his new environment. Any behavioral changes will be addressed, "but we don't expect any problems. He's used to being in the outdoors now."
"We're always nervous with a new animal because we want the best for them," Senier added.
Yogie and Friends provides a sanctuary for other lions, tigers, cougars, bobcats and servals that have been rescued from roadside zoos or other unsafe living conditions. The public is allowed to view the animals, but not touch or hold them. The same will be the case with Moses, although Senier admits that because he's so small, she's already had requests to show him off.
"But that's not what we do," Senier said.
Moses can be viewed during the weekend hours of operation.
As for daddy Batman, he's scheduled for another vasectomy Sunday. "I hope it works this time," Senier said.