Two of the youngest members of the 12-strong pride of lions at Woburn Safari Park, Kahari and Kojo, have been treated to a roarsome 2nd birthday gift from their keepers. The lucky lions were given a giant cat toy, based on a puzzle toy for a domestic cat, with a ball trapped within a frame, as can be found in any pet shop.
All-day fun as Kahari and Kojo enjoy their birthday present
Specially created by the animal enrichment experts Team Building with Bite the toy had to be solid and robust enough for lions’ teeth and claws at play. The final build measured over 1.2m and weighed in at around 70kgs, and was sprayed in men’s fragrance which helps pique the lions’ interest.
Environmental or behavioural enrichment, whereby some form of stimulation is introduced to encourage natural behaviours, plays a huge part in the lives of all of the animals at the Park, so the keepers jumped at the chance to spoil the pair with a birthday present they knew the lions would love.
“Kahari and Kojo, were born on the 25th July 2019 and are now juveniles, but still growing fast and they’re not too big to enjoy some fun and games,” says Craig Lancaster, Head of Carnivores. “They’re still really inquisitive, so we wanted to give them something that would pique their interest for their birthday this year.”
The gift that keeps on giving
“Scent-based activities, such as the one the lions were given today, are really exciting for big cats because they provide powerful olfactory stimulation,’ continues Craig Lancaster. "They love this, especially if it’s something completely out of the ordinary. Not only will the lions have a good sniff, they’ll rub their cheeks and necks over the scented objects as well.
While there may have been a few squabbles with the four younger pride members over who got to investigate the new toy first, Kahari and Kojo are exceptionally close. Male sibling lions nearly always form very tight bonds.
“The term used to describe a bonded group of male lions is a ‘coalition’, and the bonds last a lifetime.’ says Craig. “There will be one dominant male (in this case, Kojo) and there is strength in numbers, with a large coalition giving the group a big advantage when it comes to taking over a new pride. Our boys are still young, however, and remain very close to Zuri, their mum. Zuri is very no-nonsense and reminds them regularly that they may be growing up fast but she’s still the boss!”
The keepers were delighted to see the birthday gift was a huge success. All the lions in the pride showed interest but it was Kojo, Kahari and the younger cubs who were particularly intrigued. They especially loved the boomer balls and were determined to get them out of the wooden crates, providing them with hours of stimulation. Considering it’s not uncommon for lions to doze for 22 hours a day, the pride certainly earned their sleep that night!