african-Lion

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The Oregon Zoo has a history of feeding their predators raw carcasses, which is pretty awesome - and unique for American zoos. Others who have tried this method of feeding have received so much backlash from visitors, who seem to think that it’s too ‘violent’ or gross to watch, that they had to cease doing it. 

We like to think we’re a bit more progressive in the Pacific Northwest, but even so, I heard a few people complaining that it was “Barbaric!” and “Disgusting!”, saying that “This is entirely inappropriate for children!” and things of that ilk, even though there were HUGE placards outside the exhibits warning, “RAW FEEDING IN PROGRESS; VIEW AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION!" 

As for the kids - I sat by the viewing window for at least half an hour, watching crowds of several dozen youngsters walk past and watch the lions as they ate. I heard comments such as, "Wow! Coool!” and “Ew, you can see it’s spine!” but not a single child looked at the scene before them with disgust and wanted to immediately leave. They were fascinated. They watched these animals with wonder and excitement, and put up a fuss when their parents got grossed-out and wanted to continue on before they did. 

Thing is, raw feeding is not only healthy and natural for captive predators, it’s also mentally stimulating for them, and greatly educational for visitors who aren’t too squeamish or sheltered to understand it.

“See how he chews with his head to the side?” one father told his young son,. “He’s got teeth in the back of his mouth that work like scissors cutting paper." 

"Why don’t I have teeth like that?” the boy asked his dad, making a chomping motion with his own jaws. His dad laughed, and told him, “Well, it’s because you’re not a meat-eater like they are. You eat plants, too. They don’t." 

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Name Dropping at the Oregon Zoo

On September 8th, beautiful African Lion Cubs were born at the Oregon Zoo. The healthy trio were the first offspring for their seven-year-old mother, ‘Kya’, and father, ‘Zawadi Mungu’. Now, the cubs are 4-weeks-old, adventurous, feisty…and they need names! Keepers have selected two possible names for each cub and are asking the public to vote. Voting ends 5pm, Thurs. Oct. 9th!

Learn more at Zooborns.

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Big Cat Color Morphs (Click to enlarge)

Sure, your average domestic cat can come in all sorts of colors, but you’d be surprised at just how colorful Big Kitties get.

TL: Golden Tiger by Tambako the Jaguar
A Golden Tiger, or Strawberry Tiger is one with an extremely rare color variation caused by a recessive gene that is currently only found in captive tigers. Like the white tiger, it is a color form and not a separate species. This unique coloring causes the tiger to be blonde and red rather than your average orange and black tiger. Only 12 Golden Tigers are known to exist in the world. They tend to be larger and have paler stripes than most tigers. They are all mutts in a way, as they all descend from a single part-amur (siberian) white tiger male named Tony, while most others in the bloodline have been Bengal Tigers.

TR: The White Lion by Katarina 2353
Nope, not an albino. Just as your average blonde person isn’t an albino (or leucistic for that matter), the White Lion isn’t either, they’re just much rarer than your average blonde person… This color morph is similar to that of the Spirit Bears of British Columbia. The White Lion was once unique to the Timbavati region of South Africa as a color morph only found in the subspecies of African lion known as Panthera Leo Krugeri, or Kruger Lion. They have since been entirely removed from the wild and placed in zoos and shows across the globe for their rare beauty. The gene, however, has been shown to remain in the region, meaning more natural born White Lions are possible. In 2009, a reintroduction effort placed an entire pride of white lions back into the wild and was successful in rehoming these lions.

BL: The Black Panther by bencowtastic
Contrary to popular belief, the Black Panther isn’t an individual species, it’s actually a more casual term to describe a variety of melanistic big cats, Leopards and Jaguars in particular (pictured above is a Jaguar). It is most common in Leopard and rarer in Jaguars. In Leopards this color morph is inherited on a recessive allele, and in Jaguars it’s inherited on a dominant allele. Melanism is a condition that causes an excess in the production of the black pigment melanin, causing the darker color variation. It is almost always harmless to the animal. Research has even shown that it is a beneficial mutation in the wild, especially in dense forest where there is little light. Studies also suggest that Black Panthers have, on average, stronger immune systems. In certain places, they outnumber their spotted counterparts.

BR: The King Cheetah by jurvetson
The King Cheetah when first discovered in 1926, was thought to be a unique species. It wasn’t until 1981, when two female cheetahs each had a litter with a King Cheetah in it after mating with the same male, that it had become clear the King Cheetah was simply a rare genetic anomaly. In order for it to be passed from one generation to the next, a cheetah cub must inherit the recessive allele that carries this coat pattern from both parents. Oddly enough, the coat not only looks more regal and varied from the typical cheetah coat, it also has a different texture. It is said to be far silkier and softer than the average cheetah pelt.

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An Unbreakable Bond…

Baloo an American black bear, Leo an African lion, and Shere Khan a Bengal tiger (all three known as BLT) were brought together as 2-month-old cubs and have grown up as a family.

The trio was originally owned by a wealthy drug dealer who didn’t properly care for them, leading to neglect, poor health and severe injuries.

In 2001, Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, a nonprofit that cares for animals in need, came to the rescue, and took them to Locust Grove, Georgia, where they were treated for injuries.

Upon arrival at the sanctuary, the staff separated them assuming that these three, large predatory animals would try and fight each other. However, the animals did not take kindly to being separated. When they were separated they became irritable and uncooperative.  Only when they were reunited, their demeanor considerably improved.  The trio had found comfort in each other, the Sanctuary’s staff realized that they couldn’t be separated and fenced them in together; Baloo, Leo and Shere Kahn live out their days cuddling, playing ball, chasing each other around and eating cookies. (video link)

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary houses over 1,200 rescued animals representing over 100 species. Admission to the sanctuary is free, relying solely on contributions to provide food, medical care, and enrichment to save animals in need.

photo credit: ©noahs ark sanctuary (1)