Once big cat cubs reach six months of age, they are deemed old enough to try some new foods. From about four to six months, they increasingly wean away from the nutrition of mother’s milk and consume more vitamin-fortified ground meat. Our lion cubs are now seven months old, and they and their mother are eating nearly 23 pounds of ground meat per day!
The last couple of weeks presented them with a virtual smorgasbord. The cubs were offered their first beef liver as an additional vitamin additive. Large bones are vital for continued healthy teeth, and they were an instant success with all four cubs. Each cub “captured” a slippery bone and subdued it for hours of enjoyment. And lastly, while they wean from mother’s milk, canned evaporated milk is introduced through spray bottles as a tasty treat to encourage the cubs to both approach and follow keepers when called.
It turns out that while Kataba has always been the first to give any new experience a try, Sabi rises to the top as the most vocal about dinner time. Sabi will allow other cubs to move past when eating but is very grumpy about sharing, snarling and spitting if anyone attempts to encroach in personal space. Mali loves the bones but took longer to understand the benefits of canned milk in spray bottles. Msinga is an advocate of the liver, while the others believe it to be an acquired taste. Eventually, both steak meat and rabbit will be on the menu, with a possible side of fish. The cubs eagerly await the new options.
By Kay Buffamonte, KeyBank Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper