If you were ordering a birthday cake for yourself, which would you choose?
Vanilla cake with orange buttercream frosting?
Chocolate cake draped with fondant?
Or a cake made of ground turkey tastefully stuffed with a raw chicken carcass?
Choice number 3, paws down, would be top pick for Woodland Park Zoo’s young female African lion, Adia–and it’s exactly what she enjoyed when the zoo celebrated her second birthday on September 22, 2011.
Adia made short work of the confection (not even pausing to blow out the pair of drumstick “candles”). She ate every scrap, bones and all.
Then she tore into her present, a box containing a very durable ball. Much like a young household cat playing with a catnip mouse, Adia batted, swatted, carried, and pounced on her new toy.
Adia arrived at Woodland Park Zoo in November 2010. Her transfer from Ohio’s Columbus Zoo and Aquarium was advised by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for African lions. An SSP is a cooperative breeding program among zoos that helps ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability in populations of zoo animals. Woodland Park Zoo participates in more than 30 SSPs, which are administered by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).
Adia has grown a lot since her arrival and now weighs about 240 pounds. In four to eight months, she will be sexually mature and ready to be introduced to the zoo’s resident male African lion, 12-year-old Hubert. This introduction will proceed slowly and carefully. At this time, Adia can see Hubert and her future pride-mate, 12-year-old lioness Kalisa, when the lions are off exhibit.
You can see Adia in the African Savanna on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. At other times, Hubert and Kalisa will occupy the exhibit.
All three lions belong to a South African subspecies known as the Transvaal lion. At this time, lions are not an endangered species, though an ever-growing human population and habitat loss (both of which lead to increased conflict with lions when they turn to attacking humans and livestock) bode a problematic future for Africa’s best-known predator. Poachers also take a toll; the iconic animals are sometimes killed illegally for trophies.
Zoos and other organizations are working to mitigate and head off such conflicts, while maintaining healthy captive populations of African lions. As for Adia, whose name means “gift” in Swahili, she may someday “gift” the zoo in return by raising cubs of her own in accordance with her species’ SSP.