En­counter a king-sized treat

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - South Perth South Perth -

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.

Pic­ture: Mar­cus Whisson

Lioness Shinyanga is fed some chicken be­hind the scenes dur­ing one of the zoo’s new Eye-to-Eye en­coun­ters.

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