English language news articles from year 2007 plus find out everything about Asiatic Lion and Gir Forest. Latest News, Useful Articles, Links, Photos, Video Clips and Gujarati News of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary (Geer / Gir Forest - Home of Critically Endangered Species Asiatic Lion; Gir Lion; Panthera Leo Persica ; Indian Lion (Local Name 'SAVAJ' / 'SINH' / 'VANRAJ') located in South-Western Gujarat, State of INDIA), Big Cats, Wildlife, Conservation and Environment.
lounged in the shade under a tree at the back of the Jerusalem Biblical
Zoo’s lion enclosure, languidly ignoring the ducks and peacocks who
scampered close to chatter mockingly at him.
A different male ruled this territory a year
earlier. Lider, who was put down at age 16 last September because of his
deteriorating health, would have chased the birds away, said Dennis
Smith, head of the zoo’s carnivore department. In fact, the feathered
tormenters knew not even to approach him.
“Of course, he was the king of the zoo,” said Sigalit Dvir-Hertz, spokeswoman at the zoo.
Lider was extremely popular with visitors, she
said. When the lion died, many people called the zoo or wrote letters
to offer condolences and say they would miss him.
This was Lider’s kingdom. And Ileniya, now 16, was his queen.
Ileniya, 16, is the Jerusalem Zoo’s elderly lioness and the former mate of Lider, the zoo’s 16-year-old male lion who was sick and needed to be put down in September. For now, Ileniya and Ziv, the zoo’s new lion, are kept separate (photo credit: Rebecca McKinsey/Times of Israel)
But it’s not Ziv’s kingdom. Not yet.
The two-and-a-half-year-old Asiatic lion was
brought to Jerusalem from Sweden late in January, where Smith said he
was often kept inside, in a back room, especially during the harsh
winters. Originally named Gir for the Gir Forest National Park in India —
the home of most of the remaining wild Asiatic lions — he now goes by
Ziv. Several months into his time in Jerusalem, he’s still not entirely
sure what to do with his new space.
He’s had a rough start. While traveling from Sweden, Ziv was in a box for 24 hours and was scratched up his face and eye.
“He looked like an old man, believe me,” Smith said. “But now, he looks real nice.”
During his first days inside the Jerusalem zoo’s space for the lions, he prowled the cages all day.
“It was awful, really,” Smith said. “But it’s what lions do in a new place.”
The first few times Ziv was let outside into
his lair, he waited for the first opportunity to come back inside — and
when he did, he’d be panting as though he’d run a race, Smith said. The
crowds, eager to see him, were upsetting to him. A tractor driving by
was enough to send him into a panicked sprint.
Lately, though, he calmly spends most of the day outside.
the Jerusalem Zoo’s new lion, pleases crowds with a quick stroll in his
exhibit (Photo credit: Rebecca McKinsey/Times of Israel)
Ziv’s health is good — he eats 20 kilograms of
chicken and beef, fortified with vitamins, minerals and calcium, every
other day. But adjusting to his new home is going to take a little
longer for this lion.
The zoo built a new “table” for him — but he
doesn’t use it. His enclosure gives him ample space to stroll or run,
but he seems content to stay in one spot.
Zookeepers keep Ziv and Ileniya separated; introducing lions in captivity is a long, involved process.
One of the first times the lions saw each
other — albeit with bars in between them — Ileniya feinted a lunge,
frightening the much younger male.
Ziv’s position as Jerusalem’s new male lion is still as immature as his half-grown mane, but he is improving, Smith said.
and Ileniya, the previous lion and his lioness, in their enclosure at
the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo (photo credit: Anna Kaplan/Flash 90)
He and Ileniya have started to show a bit of
interest in each other, sharing glances and sniffs through the bars
“I did see them put their noses together,” Smith said. “I saw him talk to Ileniya, making a funny noise.”
The older female’s age and poor health will
probably prevent breeding between the two, but Smith is going to keep a
close eye on them — and he’ll still keep them separate for now. He plans
to set up cameras to more closely monitor their interactions at night.
Smith is a patient keeper, and his reputation
goes beyond the zoo. Although he loves his lions, he also has a passion
for birds, and several times, customs officials who have intercepted
illegally smuggled exotic birds at Ben-Gurion Airport have brought them
to him. One he still cares for is a Common Hill Myna, an Asian breed
known for its speaking abilities. This particular bird is blind and
doesn’t speak, but it still responds to Smith when he lifts it and
speaks to it.
Smith, head of the Jerusalem Zoo’s carnivore department, holds a blind
Common Hill Myna, one of several birds customs officials have given him
after the animals were intercepted from smugglers at the Ben Gurion
Airport (Photo credit: Rebecca McKinsey/Times of Israel)
That patience is benefiting Ziv. The lion,
too, responds to Smith’s voice now. And whenever he sees the keeper
approach on his red bicycle, the big cat perks up and follows the motion
with his eyes.
Ziv needs more time, Smith said. But he also needs a girl.
Breeding is especially important for Asiatic
lions, which are nearing extinction. Only about 300 remain in the wild,
with about the same amount in captivity, compared to more than 1,500
African lions living in captivity.
“With a female, I think he might calm down,” Smith said. “But it’s very hard to find one.”
In the meantime, the keeper hopes the lion
will continue to acclimate to Jerusalem, build more of a relationship
with Ileniya — even if it’s never a romantic one — and become more used
to the crowds clamoring to see him.