Animal Highlight: Lion
Ever heard that the lion is the “King of the Jungle?” Well, the lion is actually the King of the Savanna. The African lion can be found in the forests and grasslands of eastern, middle, southern and western Africa. Lions are carnivores, meaning they only eat meat! They are what are known as apex predators. They will eat anything from the smallest bird or mammal to a multitude of larger prey, such as gazelles or zebras, often going after old, sick or young animals. A lion’s prey can often sense whether lions are out to kill, and, if they are not, the prey may ignore the nearby lions. Hunting is an organized event carried out by the females of the pride.
Lions live together in a family group, known as a pride. This is unique in the big cat world as most other big cat species tend to be solitary (live alone). A pride size can range from five to 40 individuals. There are three male African lions at Zoo Atlanta: Azizi, Hondo and Hatari. They are brothers, and you will often find them inseparable. In fact, the lions are usually only separated from each other when they eat and when they are training.
All training is done through positive reinforcement. The lions can leave the session at any point. If they complete the requested behavior correctly, they get reinforced with a highly valued item, usually a food reward.
Animal care professionals are creative problem-solvers. The Lion Care Team regularly seeks out new forms of enrichment, new activities and changes in the lions’ environment to help them stay healthy and engaged, both mentally and physically.
Like many other species, African lions face multiple challenges to their survival: habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, and hunting. Identifying the threats and their causes is a necessary first step in building any successful conservation program. Zoo Atlanta has partnered with Lion Guardians, a conservation organization dedicated to finding and creating long-term solutions for humans and lions to coexist. Their approach consists of recruiting young, traditional Maasai and other pastoralist warriors to obtain the skills needed to effectively reduce conflicts between humans and wildlife, observe lion populations, and help their own communities co-exist with lions. By actively engaging in a solutions-based conservation model, people who were once lion killers are transformed into lion protectors. The African lion is one of the 2018-2019 Quarters for Conservation champions. Twenty-five cents of your Zoo admission go toward conservation. When you vote at one of our Quarters for Conservation kiosks, you get to decide which conservation program will benefit most from your support. Zoo Atlanta is proud to support Lion Guardians through this program. You can help us #ChangeTheWorld!