LITTLE LIONESS IS THE PRIDE OF BELFAST ZOO
View our gallery of Lily by clicking on the thumbnail pictures on your right BARBARY lioness cub Lily proved a roaring success when she went on show to her adoring public at Belfast Zoo last Thursday.
Lily has attracted much interest since the zoo announced her arrival in June, and despite her relative youth has already shown star quality after being featured in her own television programme 'Living with Lily' aired on UTV in August.
Rejected by her mother at birth, Lily was hand reared by keeper Linda Frew in her family home in Newtownabbey, with the help of Linda's husband Sam and the couple's three sons, David, Samuel and Richard. The TV programme showed clearly the very special bond that had developed between the little 'big cat' and the family.
And now after a period of quarantine in the Zoo, Lily is in her own grassy paddock with Keepa the Japanese Akita dog for company.
"With hindsight, it was an experience that was so unique and special," said Linda.
Zoo manager Mark Challis said: "A great thanks and gratitude is owed to Linda. It takes great dedication and passion towards our animals to extend your working life. Linda has supported the zoo and our aim of saving this subspecies of lion from total extinction."
Closeness with Linda and her family was necessary in the early stage of Lily's life. In the beginning she needed to be fed every two to three hours and she slept in Linda's bedroom in a cardboard box under a heat lamp.
But under the direction of zoo vet, Michael Griffith and curator, Julie Mansell, the zoo ensured that Lily did not become too humanised, and after discussion with Dudley Zoo, they introduced Lily to Keepa, a Japanese Akita dog.
"Keepa will help Lily keep her animal instincts, and develop Lily's playful and naturally aggressive nature," said Julie.
Keepa and Lily were first allowed to grow and form a relationship in the safe haven of Linda's home.
"It was important for Lily to learn how to play and interact with another animal of her own size," said Linda. "This has helped her to understand her own strengths and weaknesses."
A Japanese Akita was chosen to be a companion to Lily as it is a confident and brave animal. Akitas are also the most feline of the dog species and have many cat-like mannerisms. They also have a thick coat which provides Keepa with protection against Lily's sharp teeth and claws during the more aggressive and playful sessions between the unusual pair.
Keepa was also with Lily during her quarantine period of 31 days and it is hoped she will remain with Lily in her paddock for up to a year. After that period it is expected that Lily will be much too strong and powerful for them to stay together.
Lily's new home in Belfast Zoo is beside the Barbary Lion's paddock, the area where she was initially found by keepers on the morning of her birth. Lily's enclosure is designed to replicate grassy fields and includes two platforms for her to play and sharpen her claws on.
The birth of Lily now brings the number of Barbary Lions in Belfast Zoo to four.
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Weather for Newtownabbey
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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Temperature: 10 C to 15 C
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