Saturday, June 5, 2010

The pride of San Andreas

(Here’s a long but very happy excerpt from the PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society)newsletter describing the arrival at PAWS of four circus lions from Bolivia. Email for a copy of E-News to see more photos and a video made at the end of their journey.)

The four circus lions from Bolivia -- Simba, Bambek, Daktari and Camba -- arrived in San Andreas at 3 am on Friday, May 28, after a long journey by plane and truck . . . Their crates were unloaded into the lions’ den area, enhanced with pine trees and huge logs.

As the crates were moved around, all four lions began to roar, calling to one another for reassurance. Crews quickly scattered straw around the enclosure and shifted crates up to den doors so the lions (who clearly did not like being separated) could be together.

The sun rose as the lions were released into separate den areas; finally the gates were opened and the three males were reunited. Camba, the female kept separated until all the animals can be neutered, hugged the common fence, pushing her body into Bambek, the older male.

Suddenly, the males began rolling around in the fragrant alfalfa hay, then raced around the big enclosure sniffing the pine trees, urinating profusely, and somersaulting over the branches to jump on an unsuspecting companion. Camba chased the three up and down the fence line, wearing pine branches and hay on her head.

Sadly, we realized how spacious even that small den area was compared to the metal boxes that had been their home for most of their lives. We were eager to release them into the big habitat.

The three males fell asleep on top of each other against the fence next to Camba until we arrived hours later . . . and prepared to release the lions into the huge, sunny, hillside habitat with trees, logs and plentiful vegetation.

Camba was released first. After all, in lion society, the female is the smartest, leading the hunt and feeding the babies as the lazy males watch from a distance. As she bounded out the gate, the anxious boys found their own gate and followed her to freedom.

They spent most of the day running up and down the hill, stopping just long enough to rest in the shade of the oak trees. The next day, they were obviously sore from all the unusual exercise.

The lions from Bolivia were home. They chose to sleep out in the habitat that night, gazing up at the stars for the first time in their lives.

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