20 January 2015

Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo - an experience I'll never forget

A week or so ago I posted about a Eureka moment I had about becoming a tourist in your own hometown. Basically, it occurred to me that once leaving my home country all I could think about was travelling to see the world, explore new cultures & experience the unique and infamous *activities* of the exotic, unfamiliar cities we come across. It's taken a few years to occur to me, but how often do we travel-lusting lot sit back and explore our own hometown backyard?

Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
A faux Kiwi egg!
With this in mind, a 101 in 1001 goal list swiftly nearing to completion date and an afternoon pootling around Wellington, I utilized my mate Google Search and stumbled upon something amazing. 


Something incredible - Wellington Zoo offers animal experiences where you can find yourself up close and personal with a selection of their zoo pals.

Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
Zoos are a marmite institution. Some people hate the caging of animals, some love being able to educate themselves of the many wonderful species Mother Nature offers, and some like me can't help but see zoos from an ecological need perspective. Like it or not, humans are awful; poaching, eroding natural habitats and changing the strata of long-established animal kingdoms.

 
Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
Tiger, where?
 Good Zoos, to my mind and to my very limited experience, play an integral role in helping these animals. Breeding programmes helping to keep species from dying out, drumming up fundraising and PR awareness for wild animals, and provide carefully thought out sanctuaries that earnestly care about the welfare and happiness of their animals. Not all institutions are created equal, and not all do as much as they can for the happiness of their inhabitants.

Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London KiwiWellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
A Tuatara - a New Zealand native and one of the last dinosaurs in the world
 Wellington Zoo, and for that matter London Zoo where I acted as a zookeeper for the day, try to look after their animals the best they can. They also allow for humans to interact with incredible animals through experience days (ps. this isn't a comped post, just something I'm incredibly passionate about) in ways that just wouldn't be possible otherwise.

Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi

At London Zoo I've had Ringtailed Lemurs scamper across my lap, been eye to beady eye with penguins and experienced mucking out & saw-dusting the Zebra & Okapi pens. I was also warned that my handbag would be checked on exit for Penguins, but that's a story for another day.

Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
My love for animals has always however been of the feline kind. Ranging from a childhood dream of working with big Cats, but having to settle with volunteering at the RSPCA, owning a wee tabby beastie cat and hanging out with office monkeys - sorry, I mean colleagues - I set a goal of patting a big cat on my 101 in 1001 goal list, never thinking that it would happen in the hilly surrounds of Wellington.




Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
Zulu and I having a moment
Oh yes, it really happened, and what's more, we got to feed treats during behaviour training with two enormous, utterly beautiful male Lions; Malik and Zulu. Hanging out in the medical pens at the back of the Lion enclosures, we assisted - read: stared at the magnificent cats - the keeper with behavoural training, that is getting the Lions to move into certain areas of the pen for weighing, check-ups and for their daily health checks.

Feeding a Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi


In case you were wondering, a Lion's licking your hand just feels like a drier cat's tongue on a much larger scale. Stick that with the rest of the useless facts from this blog! 

We openhandedly fed them meat, stared into their big eyes and eventually got to pat their beautiful hides through a gap in the cage walls (mostly so they didn't accidentally turn and crush our fingers). I don't think I've ever been more awed at raw power and feline beauty.

Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi


They really are like enormous, very dangerous housecats; they rumble and roar, have hairy slightly oily coats and get up to all sorts of mischeif; Malik likes to wee on unsuspected keepers in between highly essential naps.

Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
This isn't my hand... she was harrumphing at us as she'd missed out on meaty treats

Once we tottered of the back area, not before we said hey to one of the upset Lionesses, we explored the rest of Wellington Zoo, dodging kids and ploughing up the steep hill. But hey, just check out the incredible views not to mention the Momma and baby Campuchin monkeys...

Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi

18 comments :

  1. I really enjoy a good zoo as well, when we were in Bristol we had such a great time at their zoo! I would love to touch a lion but I wonder if I would be allergic to them since I am allergic to regular cats?

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  2. You touching a lion is one of the greatest photos I have ever seen. x

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  3. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)20 January 2015 at 12:29

    I never knew you were so into animals Emma (apart from your kitty!) :) Sounds like you have had some lovely experiences getting to be more hands-on with looking after some of these animals - I feel like I'd have still been a little scared about feeding a lion!!

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  4. Yeah, it's not just her we're obsessed with, but living in London means that she gets all of the animal attention ;)
    It was scarily amazing.

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  5. I never think to visit other zoos - maybe I don't want to be disappointed? It's crazy really! Well, maybe I'm not sure - it's not the fine fur of a housecat so you might be alright. They're more like dogs in texture I guess?

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  6. Ah this looks so fun! I really like Wellington zoo, it is where I did the red panda experience and it was so cute!! x

    Jasmin Charlotte | UK Lifestyle Blog

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  7. They are so gorgeous, I love that first picture of the lion with all of the houses in the background, a real contrast.

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  8. I was rather tempted to hangout with the Red Pandas - how cute are they!

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  9. It was a magnificent view of Wellington funnily enough!

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  10. This is seriously the cutest things. I love cats of all sizes. On another note, penguin theft. Does everyone have a tale about stolen penguins? I'm pretty sure they do...

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  11. I'm on agreement with you about zoos being marmite institutions (great phrase btw, I'll be borrowing that sometime!), personally, I feel the same as you and I just really enjoy going. I've been to some great zoos and I've been to some shitty ones. Although, actually touching the animals, would be quite an experience but I'm not sure I'd want to. I love the idea of it but my brains it all 'nope, wild animal, can't touch'

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  12. Aaah this is amazing! Talk about cool, I had no idea you could do this. Definitely something for the bucket list :-)

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  13. What an amazing experience! Last year, my cousin got her mother a trip to feed the big cats at a zoo in London as a Xmas present, she was so excited!
    The lioness is the first photo loos so majestic :)

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  14. Brilliant, just brilliant. Love all the photos :)

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  15. Looks like you were in your element! A friend of mine is a zookeeper at Wellington Zoo and she's always highlighting their great work and also posting cute photos of large cats!

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  16. This looks like such a cool experience! I love zoos as well and also see them as a great educational tool and important way to protect some species...but I do understand why some people don't like them...it's great when you can get behind the scenes like this, and see that the zoo really does do all it can to help the animals.

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  17. Bahahaha, I think it would have to be one of those "post secret" things. Not sure if people want their names attached to some of these stories.... :D

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