” Enrichment” at Lion Camp!

Posted at 3:08 pm December 18, 2006 by Marcia Redding

 Izu and cubAs many of you know, we take our enrichment program seriously at the Wild Animal Park. Providing lots of toys, scents, and other interesting diversions helps to keep the animal’s minds and bodies healthy and happy. A few days ago, some ” unscheduled” enrichment took place.

During the Festival of Lights, the Park is open later than usual. Izu, Oshana, and cubs Abena and Bakari have been staying out on exhibit overnight so that guests who visit in the evening can enjoy them. The pride seems to love this: there are a whole new set of sights, sounds, and smells than the ones they experience in the daytime. They have a nice warm heated rock to lie on next to the big viewing window, and we give them piles of clean bermuda hay to sleep on if they so desire. (Izu is pictured above with Bakari.)

Twice a week, the grass and vegetation in the Lion Camp exhibit gets watered. The automatic system comes on at 7:15 a.m. on these days and is very similar to home irrigation systems, with a variety of pop-up sprinkler heads. The only modification is a collar of concrete that protects each sprinkler from curious felines when the heads are retracted.

This particular morning we were a little late in bringing the lions off exhibit; Izu was the last one in line to come in, and just before he entered the house, the sprinklers went off. Oh boy! He immediately reversed back out into the exhibit to enjoy this new recreational opportunity. When he did consent to come inside, he had a sprinkler head in his mouth, and a lovely ” fountain” adorned the exhibit. Luckily, Chuck, the gardener for Lion Camp, was close by. He was able to shut down the system and replace the broken sprinkler in time for the pride to be back on exhibit to greet the first visitors of the day.

More fun was had by all when Izu and his family came back outside. The repairs had created a little bit of mud in the exhibit – the cubs found this immediately and began digging and playing in it – Izu and Oshana even joined them for awhile. They were unable to excavate the new sprinkler head due to the protective concrete ring, but they had a great time trying. The cubs also enjoyed smearing a little mud on the viewing windows. Later, four tired lions sported muddy paws and satisfied expressions. While we hopefully will not be repeating this particular activity, we do appreciate the entertainment value the incident provided for Izu, Oshana, and their cubs. Sometimes enrichment just happens!

Marcia Redding is a senior mammal keeper at the Wild Animal Park.

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7 Responses to “” Enrichment” at Lion Camp!”

  1. Carole says:

    How adorable! Thank you for sharing this experience. I laughed out loud while reading it.

  2. Angie says:

    You made me laugh out loud!! Thank you so much for the great story.

  3. Jennifer says:


    I was at the park Saturday night in the rain…Abena, Bakari, Izu, and Oshana were all curled up on the heated rock in front of the viewing area, under the overhang. They were staying nice and dry, while we were drenched. They were dozing, but it was amazing to see them up close. People were taking pictures where it looked almost as if they were petting the sleeping lions through the viewing area windows. I wish I’d been able to see the sprinkler attack as well.

  4. Jeannie says:

    OMGosh, that story was a laugh-out-loud. What fun that must have been for all – well, except maybe Chuck!!! Any pictures you can post for us? Thanks for sharing.

  5. Margaret says:

    Thanks, Marcia. Evidence that Izu is still a young lion at heart. Now you have a new enrichment idea that can be safely recreated, mud zones. Interesting that pandas and lions both love to play in the mud, just like kids!

    I’ll bet the Festival of Lights is interesting for visitors in a different way too, as animals behave differently after dark. With the illumination from the lights, but natural darkness, it would give the animals more opportunities to educate their visitors.

    Happy Holidays lions, keepers, and friends!

  6. Cheryl says:

    For anyone who can, please visit the Festival of Lights at the WAP – it is amazing – and a tradition for our family every year (and we’re all adults). The sounds, smells and lights are magical – and you really feel like you are in another part of the world. Then getting all bundled up and taking a tram ride after dark is the best – and the animals really are very active at night. Happy Holidays everyone!

  7. Margaret says:

    How about an update on Izu’s two families? How are all the cubs doing, especially Mandisa?