September 22, 2010
Working with the lion cubs was the highlight of the entire experience for me. I tried to spend every free second I had with them. We had two sets of cubs while I was working there, one litter of five cubs turned five-weeks old the day before we got there so they were seven weeks when we left. The other group consisted of six cubs from a few litters and ranged in age from 3 to 4 months. The size difference between the babies and the older cubs was amazing, a few weeks makes such a difference! Even in the short time I worked at Boskoppie I saw the cubs grow so much. The second week they switched to meat and we watched them turn from these adorable sweet babies to ferocious little lion cubs growling at each other over tiny pieces of formula-covered meat. I spent most of my time with the babies- both on duty and relaxing time. Duties consisted of making formula, preparing and cleaning the bottles, bottle feeding, peeing and pooing them, then washing their faces and paws. We also just spent a lot of time cuddling them and playing jungle gym where they would crawl all over us. The first week there they had almost no teeth, but by the second week they were sharp and could pierce the skin on our fingers which they liked to try and suck on as they were teething and hungry. I say try because we wouldn’t really let them as our hands carry germs and they are babies (also the second week their teeth really hurt)! By the sixth day I knew all five cubs by name and I could predict who would eat what and when they would each poo/pee. There were 3 girls and 2 boys: Daisy, Amelia, Tilly, Mozomba, and Teddy. Daisy was my favorite and I like to think I was hers because every time I went into the enclosure alone or with other people she made a beeline straight to my lap where if she had her druthers she would remain for hours on end. During the second week they started pooing on their own so we were able to stop helping them, which was nice because while you do get over the initial shock of having lion poo in your hand, it never stops being pretty gross. However since they were getting bigger they became more mischievous and began naughty things like chewing on our hair and often Tilly and Amelia would try to climb up my back to eat my hair. They also liked chewing on my camera strap, thinking it was a very fun game. One of the cutest things the cats would do was when we picked them up under their arms, which is how you must pick them up because their bellies are full of milk, they would go very limp and their arms would stick up over their heads, which I repeatedly referred to as “vampire cat.” However on the last day when I realized I didn’t have a picture of them doing it one of the other volunteers, Tifanny, and I enlisted Daisy to pose for us and she was not in the mood and just squirmed and meowed so instead I got an adorable picture of Daisy complaining. Working with these creatures makes dealing with all the other problems worth it and will be an experience I cherish forever. All the photos here are of the babies, I will post more of the older cubs soon.