Lion cub laying down with a ripped apart purple papier-mâché igloo filled with enrichment items. Lion is looking at the camera with purple animal-friendly paint on his nose.

Werribee lions turn two

12 August 2019

Lion cub siblings Ilola, Asali, Ato and Lwazi celebrated their second birthday today with some wintery-themed enrichment at Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Like most two-year-olds, the cubs were eager to explore their birthday activities, tearing apart a collection of animal-friendly papier-mâché igloos and snowflakes created by a team of dedicated volunteers.
The enrichment also helped launch the start of the Winter Warmers experience, which sees fire pits and marshmallow toasting brightening the Zoo every weekend in August.
The two male and two female cubs shared the birthday festivities with mum Nilo, aunt Nairibi, and step sisters Kibibi and Aziza. After the excitement the cubs fell asleep with the animal-friendly paint on their noses, still holding their much-loved presents.
Keeper Christina Speckamp said enrichment activities like these allow the pride to practice some lion etiquette, an important skill for the socially-focused species.
“This is a fantastic activity for them to explore as a pride, especially for the cubs who are still learning how to share,” she said. “They have wonderful older sisters who are teaching them the ways of the world and it’s lovely to see how much they enjoy enrichment like this.”

Exploring new objects is an important way for the lion pride to use their minds and bodies as they would in the wild, Ms Speckamp said of the birthday enrichment.
But it’s not all about birthday fun. Werribee Zoo’s lions are ambassadors for their wild cousins. The species is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN red list, with an overall population decrease of 43 per cent over the past 20 years.
“Any way that you can get involved with conservation would be a wonderful birthday gift for these lions,” Ms Speckamp said. “Every little bit helps.”
Visitors can keep winter at bay every weekend of August at Werribee Zoo with the help of fire pits, marshmallow roasting and the chance to pick up an instrument and jam along to some African music.