On Saturday morning I woke up and I wasn't too excited about going to the zoo. I don't spend much time away from Annabelle, and whenever I do it makes me a little piney. Of course, I went... and what a fantastic experience we had. Even my hubby said he enjoyed my birthday present. (Lucky him. lol)
First up we met the zoos whole pride of lions - 3 lionesses (full sisters) and 2 kings of the jungle (half brothers to each other). I won't lie, as they approached I was feeling a little nervous! They have an imposing presence and the zoo keeper was telling us that the lions like to get a rise out of visitors by making sudden movements, roaring etc. And they did. Cheeky cats!
The zoo keeper was very passionate about lions, gave us lots of information and allowed us to ask all the questions we liked (it was only me and DH on the encounter). All the handling of the lions the visitors are allowed to do (such as holding their tail) is used in the desensitization of the lions for times when they need medication, need to be weighed etc so it's nothing that isn't beneficial for them.
At the end we got to feed them. I have to say I was pretty scared about this part, but despite their huge teeth they were so gentle! It's a pretty odd experience feeling the breath of a lion on your hand and having it lick you. Scarey but exciting.
Don't panic, it isn't my blood trickling down my hand in the next photo. It was the blood from the meat we were feeding them.
We walked away to our next encounter on a bit of a high! Next up was the cheetahs. This was a completely different experience as there are no barriers. We met two 5 year old male cheetahs (full brothers). We sat down and they wandered amongst us (three zookeepers and two other vistiors). One lay down in front of us and rolled on it's back, legs in the air just like your domestic cat likes to do.
I was a little bit nervous at one stage as something caught the eye of one of them and it was walking straight towards Ronnie and I with a very determined look. We moved a little bit away from one another and it sat between us! Phew, it didn't want to eat one of us. lol
Did you know that cheetahs purr? They are the largest of the cats who purr. Another interesting fact we learned was that if a cat can purr it can't roar - and vice versa.
Again, the zookeepers (all women as these two cheetahs don't like male zookeepers) were very passionate and shared lots of information and facts about cheetahs and cheetah conservation. Exciting and enlightening.
Next stop - giraffes. Unfortunately, Saturday was a cold, cold day. The giraffes were hiding out in their heated enclosure and would not come out - not even for food. :-) So, we didn't get to meet them up close and personal but not to worry we have a voucher to do this again in the future. We are going to wait until the summer before rebooking, just to be sure :-) And we'll take Annabelle with us next time. We took her back in March and even at such a young age quite enjoyed small parts of it - including trying to grab this Bolivian squirrel monkey through the glass.
Anyway, it was a super day and if you ever get the chance to do a close encounter you should definitely go for it (at our local zoo some of the fee for the close encounters goes towards local and overseas conservation projects, which is another plus).
I hope your week is off to a great start!