Encounter a king-sized treat
IT isn’t every day you come face-to-face with the king of the jungle so when the opportunity to meet three of them came up I jumped at the chance.
The visit was part of Perth Zoo’s Eye-toEye encounters, which allows visitors to go behind the scenes at various animal enclosures including the African Savannah, which is home to African lion brothers Nelson and Mandela and lioness Shinyanga.
Nelson and Mandela, who arrived at the zoo in 2007 and weigh 187kg and 177kg respectively, share their enclosure with 15year-old Shinyanga who weighs 128kg.
During the encounter, visitors are treated to a rare insight by their zookeeper, who tells you about their history, weight and habits.
Our keeper Becky Thomasson told us Nelson and Mandela came to Perth via Queensland and have been permanent fixtures ever since.
She fed them horse meat and chicken before allowing us to do the same.
Not everyone can say they have handfed a lion so to do so was a privilege and incredibly special moment.
Not only was I in complete awe of these magnificent creatures – I was also scared for my life.
But I got appreciate them in a way I had never imagined and they were so powerful and beautifully regal.
Fully-grown lions can measure between 1.5m and 2m in length and male lions can weigh approximately 180kg while the lioness is smaller, weighing around 125kg.
The life expectancy in the wild is 10 to 14 years, but in zoos, they can live to 30 due to an exemplary diet and veterinary care.
The African Savannah also features the African painted dog, cheetah and giraffes.
Lioness Shinyanga is fed some chicken behind the scenes during one of the zoo’s new Eye-to-Eye encounters.