Texas zoo chief preps new lion exhibit
Big cats sure to draw crowds
By Sean Thomas
Web-posted Monday, December 4, 2006
Three lions from Oklahoma found a new home in Amarillo this year. The unnamed lions – one male and two sisters – are sure to attract visitors to the Amarillo Zoo when the new lion exhibit opens.
Zoo curator Rhonda Votino and her staff have cared for and watched over the large cats since their arrival in the summer.
Q. HOW DID THE NEW EXHIBIT COME ABOUT?
A. ” The Amarillo Zoo has never exhibited lions before, so they will be a first for our zoo. Since lions are an animal species that most visitors look for when they come to a zoo, we thought now would be a good time to add them to our collection. We are always trying to improve the exhibits for the zoo visitors and want them to enjoy their time here.”
Q. WHAT DOES THIS IMPROVEMENT MEAN FOR THE ZOO AND THE CITY OF AMARILLO?
A. “Adding lions to our animal collection only contributes to the diversity of our exhibits. Lions will be an interesting addition since they are the only social cat species that live in prides (a male with numerous females and their young). These lions are young, so regular zoo visitors will get to see these animals grow up. Hopefully, visitors will enjoy the changes and further support the zoo and its development.”
Q. WHAT KIND OF NUTRITIONAL GUIDELINES OR EXERCISE REQUIREMENTS DO THE LIONS HAVE?
A. “Lions and other exotic cat species require a diet of raw meats that can be supplemented with whole prey items (chickens, rabbits, rodents, etc.). Our lions are fed a commercial ground meat made up of beef and horse. It is a complete diet with all of the vitamins and minerals that they require as well. Zoos have several companies to chose from that make the exotic cat meats. Our lions currently eat about six pounds of meat a day. As adults, they will potentially eat seven to 12 pounds daily.
“There are no requirements for exercise. However, the zookeepers provide the lions with behavioral enrichment toys (Boomer balls, logs, boxes, etc.) to keep them active and encourage natural behaviors. Since the lions are young, they are very playful and active with each other. The visitors are going to really have a great time watching them. They may slow down quite a bit as they reach maturity. In the wild, lions spend up to 18 hours lying around to conserve energy before they go on a hunt for food.”
Q. HOW ARE THE LIONS ADAPTING TO THE VARYING WEATHER OF AMARILLO?
A. “The lions are adapting well to the weather. Their zookeepers make sure they have good shelter and heaters when it is needed. Our recent snowfall was a new experience for them. They enjoyed running and romping in it. During the summer months, they were often observed playing in their pool when it got too hot.”
Q. WHEN WILL THE NEW EXHIBIT OPEN?
A. “Construction is getting close to completion. If all goes well, maybe by the end of this month.”
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