Although Naba and Shera are moving into their senior years, they are still in pretty good shape. Naba moves more slowly and carefully at times, but we have not seen anything that has concerned us. They seem to be healthy and doing quite well for their ages!
Amahle’s personality is exactly like that of her mom, Shera, when she was 5 years old. She was very quiet as a cub and, along with her brother Jumbe, was often the last to hit the big milestones, such as tasting meat or participate in husbandry training. But, ever since her two half-sisters received a breeding recommendation from the Species Survival Plan and moved to another zoo, Amahle’s personality has changed. In her prime, we can see her rising to the role of alpha female, even though mom and Aunt Naba are still very much in charge.
Of all the lions, Amahle is the most playful. True to her ‘alpha’ personality, she makes it a point to be the first to play with the toys we offer for enrichment. The items we offer our great cats are very similar to the toys you would buy for your domestic cat — just on a very large, heavy-duty scale!
Usually Amahle and Shera hog the special treats and toys in the yard, and Naba waits patiently until they give the item up. I’m not sure I’m very good at convincing our visitors that Naba could take these things for herself if she wanted to. One day, I happened to be saying just that to a visitor a few seconds before Naba demonstrated just how alpha she was! Amahle didn’t even put up a fight. Naba has the sweetest personality, but I love the moments when she reminds the other lions that she’s still the queen bee around here.
Amahle is very attached to her toys, so much so that trying to get her weekly weights is often a challenge. We weigh the lions every Thursday morning. For whatever reason, that is always the time she wants to play the most. One week, I had such a tough time getting her to leave her favorite boomer ball that, eventually, she just took it with her on the scale!
The aforementioned boomer ball is a favorite of all our cats, not just Amahle. I think it is because the 12-inch diameter makes it easy for them to pick up and carry around in their mouths. Out of all the toys, it also rolls the fastest—so it’s fun for them to chase!
All of our toys are selected to encourage the cats to use their natural behaviors. Once such toy is an unevenly weighted ball. Due to the odd weight distribution, it rolls in a funny pattern, mimicking prey zigzagging away.
As one can imagine, these toys — though well-loved — can quickly become weathered from our lions’ teeth and claw marks. One way fans of our lions can help keepers purchase new toys is by making a donation to the Enrichment Trunk.