An update on Joco the Lion

An update from Craig Lancaster, Head of Section - Carnivores

Joco has spent the first 7 years of his life in two different zoos, living in smaller enclosures. So initially keepers noticed that he found the extra freedom of an expansive 32 acre reserve quite daunting. The new environment was all completely foreign to him, so keepers gave him as much time as he needed to adapt to his new surroundings.

A slow and steady introduction to the Pride 

The introduction of Joco to the other members of the pride has brought mixed results; the younger females Kamara and Zuri have taken to him very well over time. Visitors will be able to see the bond that has formed between them and it’s hoped that in time Kamara and Zuri will produce cubs, which will further increase these bonds.

Joco the Alpha Male Lion at Woburn Safari Park

The older lionesses were far less welcoming. Unfortunately for Joco, the older lionesses don’t see much benefit to his arrival as they are beyond breeding age and view him as an outsider in territory where they’ve spent their entire lives.

Asserting his dominance

Joco on the other hand, wants to assert his dominance and claim the territory as his own. This conflict of interest is completely natural for lions and generally results in aggression between the individuals.

Careful monitoring

Keepers are trained to let this aggression play out and allow the lions to naturally determine their own hierarchy. However, there are times when keepers will ‘step in’ and break these fights up, to prevent any serious injuries.  Keepers are trained to block or manoeuvre the lions around the reserve using Land Rovers. For example, keepers will deter individuals should they ever approach the areas near the gates, for obvious safety reasons.

Keepers persevere

Keepers will persevere in introducing Joco to the older lionesses and are hopeful that, in time, they will accept each other’s presence. There will be occasions when visitors witness aggressive behaviour, or see keepers intervening with a vehicle.  Visitors can be reassured that the patrol drivers are highly skilled at reading behaviour and body language, and will often pro-actively manoeuvre individuals to diffuse a potential situation when necessary.

Over the course of 2019 the lions will be taking turns to spend time in the smaller paddock near the house each day, whilst the others will be out in the main parkland reserve as the mixing process continues.