As 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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