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Establishing a New Pride

Monday, December 22, 2008 12:30am
Steve McKee.JPG

G’day everyone and welcome to the new Carnivore Department blog.  I’m Steve McKee and I am one of the Big Cat keepers at the Adelaide Zoo.  I’m a Carnivore keeper which means some days I work with Big and Small Cats; other days I work with Australian Sealions and African Wild Dogs; and sometimes I work with Otters, Meerkats…and Giraffes (?)…just to keep me on my toes.

Our Lion introduction has been taking place for sometime now so I’ll start this blog with a bit of history and how we got to where we are now.

Our new male, Mujambi, arrived as a two year old in June 2007 from Mogo Zoo in NSW.  Once he cleared quarantine (30 days) we moved him next to our females and he has been living next to them ever since.  Our two lionesses, Amani and Yizi, were both six years old when Mujambi arrived and the size difference between them was quite noticeable.  Mujambi was a much smaller, leaner animal than the two girls and this size difference slowed down our introduction greatly.  What slowed it down even more however was that the girls were not overly friendly towards their new neighbour.  Had the girls shown friendly behaviours towards Mujambi we would have been able to move much quicker with the introduction.

So the first step in integrating our three lions into a small pride was to bulk up the new boy.  Given the level of aggression shown towards him through the mesh separating them, we had to make sure he was able to defend himself sufficiently once the mesh was no longer there.

Mujambi’s weight steadily grew over the following months but unfortunately his bravery didn’t follow suit.  He remained rather cowardly for such an impressive looking beast and would quickly submit when threatened by one of the females next door.

After a few more months of bulking up Mujambi, we decided he should be big enough now to handle himself in a fight and fend of an attacking lioness.

Yizi was by far showing the most aggression towards Mujambi and because of this Amani was the first lioness to be introduced.  Given the months of aggressive behaviour we had seen previously, we had anticipated a rather brutal meeting of the two cats.  As soon as Amani was given access to his yard they both came together aggressively and a fight ensued.  There were a total of three fights during this first introduction, each fight only lasting 10 to 20 seconds.  Despite giving it a good go during the first altercation, Mujambi quickly submitted during the 2nd and 3rd fights.  He tried to run away often and in doing so received a few wounds to his back end (nothing serious).  What surprised us a little is how quickly Amani called off the assault once she had him on the run.  We had expected far more ferocious fighting from her yet it was great to see she fought only long enough to assert dominance.

We continued putting Amani and Mujambi together for several weeks and over this period they worked out their place in the hierarchy…Amani, clearly the dominant animal.

It was now Yizi’s turn to go in with Mujambi and we were expecting a far more aggressive encounter between these two.

We keep written records on all our animals at the Zoo and the daily report for our lions states the following:

“First introduction for male Mujambi A70193 and female Yizi A20395 – Yizi let into Mujambi’s yard, and went straight over to him and started fighting.  Mujambi tried to get away and didn’t really fight back much. Fire extinguishers let off front and back, but Yizi continued chasing and fighting.  Mujambi ran through the dens but Yizi too close to be able to separate.  Yizi hosed, and she stopped fighting long enough for Mujambi to run into den and be separated. Yizi sustained no real injuries, Mujambi a number of small injuries (SM).”

Other introductions unfolded with similar aggression, resulting in Yizi assuming dominance over Mujambi.  Over the course of the following weeks she maintained her dominance while they both slowly grew more relaxed being in with each other.

More updates shortly………


Today I was lucky enough to see the Lions being fed and then later go behind the scenes with Steve to see the tiger,this was as part of my training in becoming a future tour guide within the zoo.
Thankyou Steve for a great insight, your passion for these animals came through as you spoke to our group. A fantastic job/work enviroment you have, it must be a pleasure to arrive at work on any given day.
great work regards Anne
Posted By: Anne on Saturday, March 28, 2009 8:02pm
The lions are three of my favourite animals to visit at the Adelaide Zoo. Mind all the zoo animals are special. Yizi and Amani have won me over completely, but young Mujambi is a real character and he is becoming such a special animal to visit. The obvious great care you give them and your love of the job is so very apparent. No wonder they are such characters.
Posted By: Lorraine Castle on Saturday, January 03, 2009 3:09pm

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