Last week the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo closed one lion exhibit and started the process of introducing its two female lion cubs to the adult male.
When the cubs Amana and Sauda came to the zoo last September they were too young to house with the male, King Louie, affectionately known and Luke. So, they were housed in the exhibit area that once held Bengal tigers.
The last tiger, Sunny Delight, died in August of 2017.
Now that the girls have gotten bigger, they have been moved to the main lion house. Luke and the girls are separated by a barrier but can see each other and have close access to each other.
Zoo Supervisor Sara Hamlin has provided regular updates on the process of getting acquainted, known as a “howdy.” The public can view some videos of this process on the Great Bend-Brit Spaugh Zoo Facebook page.
“Our progress has been slow but positive,” Hamlin said.
“In the (first) video you will hear some growling initiated by one of the females. It is totally understandable that at this point these girls would be scared of the unknown male that is much larger than they are. Luke does growl back but what he does after is very important; he stays put but looks away. This is him saying ‘I’m nervous that you’re scared, but I like you and I want to stay with you.’
“Big cat introductions can be a very scary and dangerous process for all those involved but this video shows us a very positive sign of what is to come from our lion pride,” Hamlin wrote.
Five days later, the Sept. 4 video shows Luke is getting much more comfortable with the girls, based on his body language, Hamlin said.
“At about 0:43, the female that is laying on the ground ‘barks’ at Luke as a warning. He then calmly backs out of the building, which is the exact reaction we want to see.
“Overall, this video shows us that both females are curious about Luke, that one of them is still very nervous about him but her reaction isn’t as strong as it was the first day, and that Luke is willing to respect their feelings and their need for space,” Hamlin wrote.
A message posted on the exhibit that held Amana and Sauda notes that tigers may one day return to the zoo.
“Our goal is to renovate this exhibit and holding barn so it meets all specified requirements to comfortably and safely house a species of tiger,” the note reads. There is no timeline for that project.
Butterflies, foxes and golf
In other zoo news:
• The zoo has been receiving butterfly shipments and the Butterfly House is in full bloom.
• The Great Bend Zoological Society is hosting a Glow Ball Golf benefit tournament for the zoo. The two-person scramble starts at 5 p.m. on Sept. 15 at Stoneridge Country Club. For details call the club, 620-792-1438.
• At Tuesday’s Great Bend City Council meeting, Community Coordinator Christina Hayes reported that National Geographic has been in contact with the zoo. A few years ago, one of the zoo’s arctic foxes was photographed by Joel Sartore for the National Geographic Photo Ark. Now project members are interested in looking into ways to do an audio tour of zoos where animals were photographed.