12 September 2019
Feeding is a big part of our job. Feeding is not only vital for the animal’s good health, it is also an opportunity to observe the animals. We mainly look at their behaviour. Do they eat enough and in a way which is normal for them? Do they respond to us, to the food and to any neighbours and group members in the usual way? We notice deviant behaviour quickly, as we know the cats very well individually. We have calm eaters (Simba), wild eaters (Tyson), bottomless pits (Isolde), picky eaters (the Siberian tigers), collectors (Iwan and Drago) etc. It takes all sorts. Some animals behave quite fiercely just before feeding, but are back to normal when they are full. An example is Tyson. We also have weird eaters, who always eat in a certain way, like Simba. He always eats with his bottom up in the air, which looks very funny. Some animals we feed during the day, for logistic reasons, but most get fed at the end of the day. Most of them already wait impatiently outside. They can’t tell the time, but know exactly what time it is. Feeding requires a lot of organising. The big cats have to be inside, each in a separate enclosure. The feeding cart is prepared, with all the equipment, food and supplements. The animals are eager and bolt inside. The groups are not particularly nice to each other in those moments, a situation that requires our extra attention. At feeding times we always stand at the ready. When all preparations are done, we start feeding. Every individual gets a piece of meat according to its condition, for example: animals who easily gain weight get a smaller piece, animals with a high metabolism get a bigger piece. We also have lazy eaters (like Goha), who don’t make the effort to eat the meat off the bone. They get an easy piece. Animals who gobble (like Isolde) or eat very quickly get pieces that require more effort. Pieces that they can chew on for a while.
What do we feed?
The big cats (tigers and lions) are mainly fed beef. They also regularly get goose, sometimes tripe and very occasionally salmon. The smaller cats (leopards and cougars) also get beef and goose, but also rabbit and pigeon. We try to give them food that comes close to what they would eat in the wild. Big cats eat mainly big game. Smaller cats have a more varied diet, because they catch smaller prey.
How much do we feed?
Like we said before, this is animal dependent. Generally, the animals get between 1 and 7 kilograms of meat; the smallest (Sya and Chen) about 1 kilo and the biggest (Vladimir and Kuma) about 6 to 7 kilos. These are averages, because the leopards Sya and Chen sometimes get a goose, which weighs 3 to 4 kilos, feathers included. On the other hand, the big cats also sometimes get just a goose, so on those days they get a bit less than normal. In the wild they don’t always catch exactly the same prey, so we try to copy that. That is why we also have one day a week without food. If it’s very warm, like last summer, we introduce an extra fasting day. In spring and autumn, we also give less meat, like in the wild, when the herds are migrating and there’s less prey.
All animals get a general supplement (Carmix) on their meat. This is a vitamin and mineral concentrate for felids. Many of our older animals also get glucosamine, which has a positive effect on the ligaments. Some animals get special supplements.
How are things with:
Simba and Isolde
The icons of Stichting Leeuw. A very cute couple, with Simba being the laid-back one and Isolde the busybody. Isolde is very playful and plays a nice game of football. Simba prefers to do nothing, he is just being the cool guy. The couple is 8 years old and is about to move to South Africa. Those of you who follow Stichting Leeuw, know that relocation can take quite a while. Shame, but it can’t be helped. Meanwhile, they enjoy their time at Stichting Leeuw!
Remy is a teenager now, and up for anything. The world is one big playground. We do hunting sessions with Remy, but only when there are no or very few visitors. Remy is still quite apprehensive of people on the balcony when he is in the hunting hall. He’s very good at hunting! A bit blunt, but that’s just his young age. Which can lead to very funny situations. Like when we hung a goose wing on the simulator for the next hunting session and parked it over a pond, so that Remy wouldn’t get it. When we we’re going about our business cleaning behind the curtains, we heard a big splash. When we rushed to look, we saw Remy, proudly standing with the goose wing in his mouth, in the pond. Completely drenched.
Bohdana is one of the Siberian triplets (the others are Vladimir and Valesca). Bohdana enjoys her outside enclosure. Hers has a lot of vegetation, where she can hide behind. She likes her peace and quiet. She also likes to spend time with her neighbour Kuma, whom she gets along with very well. She, like Bombay, doesn’t like to be locked up inside, but going inside is getting better and better. She enjoys target training and likes to show this off during the tiger workshops.