THROUGH THE EYES OF THE KEEPERS (BLOG 8)

24 October 2019

Sandra Kuijmans

Good morning

Mornings are a special time of day. We arrive at a completely deserted animal park. When we enter Stichting Leeuw and turn on the lights, a few sleepy eyes open. Squinting into the sudden lights. You hear some yawning, some rise from their beds. On the other side you can hear an animal walking about. We start the checkup rounds. Some inside enclosures are empty – the animals are outside. We’ll see them later on the outside keepers’ path. In summer most animals are outside in the morning. A different story in autumn and winter, when most are inside. Some animals start when we pass by – they didn’t hear us coming. Some cats are already waiting for us. We have those who sleep in, like Simba and Iwan. And those who are up bright and early, like Ayla and Afrodite. Just like people, really. Simba’s manes are always in a mess in the morning, something that always makes us smile.

Hugo and Ambra

Simba

Sita, Laksmi and Brami

Bakari, Dumi, Sarabi and Jessy

Hammock for Brami, Sita and Laksmi

We built a hammock in Brami, Laksmi and Sita’s outside enclosure. Inside they love their firehose bed, so now they can enjoy it outside too! It’s quite a high construction, made of tree trunks, with the firehose hammock suspended in between. It’s not finished yet, because it needs a step of some sorts, but Laksmi had no trouble getting in. Before long Brami followed her example, and later on Sita as well.

Toys

Enrichment takes all shapes, and one of them is toys. We constantly need to replace them, because the big cats get bored easily. So it’s quite a challenge to make it exciting for them every time. Last week our volunteers Anna, Sem and Fien created a new toy out of old firehose. A nice result, which was well received! Another volunteer, Joyce, donated a beautiful cardboard version of the Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. We’re thinking of giving this to the leopards, in the hope that they won’t immediately destroy it. Maybe another animal can have it after them. Should we give it to a lion, we can be sure it will be completely gone in minutes.

How are things with


Afrodite

Our little clown. A small-for-her-species Siberian tigress. One with specific instructions for use. Of course they all have, but Afrodite is a funny one. She can suddenly be daunted by the weirdest things, like a platform in the inside enclosure. She is extremely playful. Afrodite has turned scaring visitors into a sport. In her outside enclosure she will jump against the fence just when unsuspecting visitors walk past. She can also aim very well when she sprays, sometimes straight through the peeping hole, with a lightly sprayed visitor as a result.

Dumi

Dumi is a member of the Bakari pride. Amongst the lionesses in this pride, she is the lowest in rank. She’s a bit insecure but can be very feisty. She’s a good huntress and very cuddly. She likes to be part of a big heap of lion, which the pride often forms by sleeping against and on top of each other. Dumi is a real men lioness. Which means she clearly prefers the male keepers. No problem for Jurjen and Patrick, but for us ladies it can be a bit of a challenge. Dumi sometimes tends to remain lying in the big hall, when we really want her to come out. It’s not uncommon that we have to cancel hunting sessions, because madam lioness refuses to move.

Fred

Our Fred is such a gentleman. He is Ginger’s partner. He stays quite calm, even when Ginger snarls at him. In the end, he’s the boss and it shows. Ginger will move aside, albeit grumpy, when Fred needs to be somewhere. Fred will eat calmly, while Ginger keeps a safe distance. He has two female neighbours (Sya and Chen), who find him very attractive, which of course he loves. He is a photogenic Persian leopard and can therefore often be spotted on Facebook.