Queens of the jungle demonstrate their might

10 August 2021

Six of Werribee Open Range Zoo’s majestic lionesses have captivated keepers with their ferocious, energetic and powerful natural behaviours while tearing into a specially prepared banquet-style feast for World Lion Day today [August 10].

The impressive big cats have extraordinarily leapt up into trees, over the top of termite mounds and athletically tussled with their fellow pride members while on the hunt for their meal. 

Werribee Open Range Zoo’s African River Trail keeper Kristina Sleeth said the fascinating response from the lion pride was a result of strategic meal placement and preparation.

“In their habitat, we placed pieces of meat in high places and also anchored down a large piece of ribs - which is a special treat for them,” she said.

“Anchoring down the food adds complexity to their feed, so instead of being able to easily grab it and run off and eat it all by themselves – they had to think about how to protect their food from the other lions and strategise how they were going to get their food off the anchor.”

"We always like to encourage their natural wild behaviours and provide that physical and mental stimulation for them.”

Ms Sleeth said the challenging meal provided an opportunity for the lions at the Zoo to learn how to use their body strength to their advantage.

“In the wild, knowing how to use their body strength can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful hunt,” she said.

“Here at the Werribee Open Range Zoo, the lions are really well looked after so they actually don’t have to worry about that. However we always like to encourage their natural wild behaviours and provide that physical and mental stimulation for them.”

Lions are classified as vulnerable in the wild, with their species in decline as a result of hunting and habitat destruction. It’s estimated as few as 23,000 individuals remain in sub-Saharan Africa.

Anyone can support lion conservation through Zoos Victoria’s Beads for Wildlife program. The initiative supports the protection of the rangelands in Northern Kenya through the sale of handmade beadwork available through Zoos Victoria’s website.

World Lion Day is an annual global event which aims to generate awareness about the threatened species.

Zoos Victoria’s three zoos – Werribee Open Range Zoo, Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary – are currently closed to visitors in line current COVIDSafe directions. For more information visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au.