The El Paso Zoo will begin the process of one-on-one introductions between male and female lions this week. Rudo, the 3-year-old male lion, arrived at the Zoo in March 2014 as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Program® (SSP).
“Welcoming a new animal to the Zoo can be a slow process. Beginning from quarantine, to allowing animals to get to know their new home and keepers, this process is carefully planned and is necessary for the safety and well-being of all animals,” said Collections Supervisor Amanda Leverett.
When Rudo arrived in 2014, he was very young and shy and not ready to meet the female lions right away. The priority on arrival was for him to feel at home, and comfortable with the zookeepers that care for him. He could hear and smell the females, but couldn’t see them. Slowly, he was introduced to the females through a mesh partition so he could see and have protected interaction with them.
Based on observations of their behavior, the next step in the process is to allow full-contact introductions between Rudo and Zari, one of the female lions.
Zoo staff has been preparing for this step since he arrived. Preparation included behavior observations, research, collaboration with experienced zoo colleagues and consultants, and creating specialized plans for the individual animals.
“I have full confidence that Zoo staff have expertly prepared for this difficult task. This type of planning is vital for the safety and well-being of the animals, and mitigates risk,” said Zoo Director Steve Marshall. “I am proud of the devotion staff has for our animals and the great work they consistently do.”
For now, introductions will be conducted off exhibit. Like with all species, forming a bond may not be instantaneous and it may take some time until the lions are ready to be on exhibit together.
“Because introductions of large carnivores are inherently risky, this kind of preparation is integral to facilitate a positive outcome. We have taken extra care and time to help Rudo build his confidence as he matures to become the leader of the pride,” said Animal Training and Enrichment Coordinator Carrie Trudeau.
Author: El Paso Zoo