Wednesday, April 22, 2009
All’s fair in love and roar
All's fair in love and roar
Every new relationship has its up its downs, and it turns out things are no different in the animal kingdom.
Dudley Zoo's newest resident Itar the lion found the road to romance can be rocky during a lovers' tiff over an old bucket.
Gir the lioness took offence to her new suitor paying more attention to the bucket than to her.
But it was nothing more than a storm in a teacup and the two cats were soon back to frolicking in the sunshine.
Since they were introduced last week, keepers at the zoo in Castle Hill have been delighted by how well they have been getting on.
Initially, Itar was housed in a cage within the newly-completed Lion Ridge enclosure to give him and Gir a chance to get used to each other's company.
But the keen lioness spent much of her time lying right next to his cage and they were regularly seen playing together through the bars.
He is now free to roam around the £150,00 enclosure and zoo staff say there is a definite animal attraction between the new couple.
Itar arrived at the Dudley tourist attraction last week following a gruelling 14-hour trip by boat and road from Holland. Sourcing, securing and transporting him from a safari park in Holland was a big job, but it's one staff at the attraction have relished.
The Asiatic lion, who weighs more than 17 stones, arrived on site in the early hours of last Thursday morning.
His arrival followed a lengthy process, which chief executive Peter Suddock explained.
"For every animal in captivity, there is a coordinator of that species," he said.
"For Asiatic lions, the coordinator is based at Twycross Zoo so the first port of call was to contact them.
"They then use a piece of special software to trace available cats. It is important at this stage to trace the lion's family tree as you cannot breed with cats which are too closely related."
The zoo was lucky to receive Itar as there is a long waiting list for young males who may be capable of fathering cubs. But their previous breeding success and the investment in the new enclosure stood them in good stead.
Staff then had to fill out all of the relevant paper work – a process that can take months – but it was done and dusted in just two weeks after Dr David Beeston, from the Zoo's education and research department, stepped in.
Itar was brought by road and boat – docking in Dorset. "Like any animal entering the UK from Europe, Itar is deemed to be at risk of having rabies," said senior curator Matt Lewis.
"So he has to go in to quarantine for a period of six months. But as they are sharing the enclosure, the whole of Lion Ridge is now a designated quarantine zone – it basically means there is a lot of foot washing and segregating of rubbish."
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