Lion cubs’ training triumph


Werribee Open Range Zoo’s three not-so-little African lion cubs are making roar-some strides in their healthcare training by learning to sit, stand, lie down and touch targets on request.

At 7-months-old and weighing more than 45 kilograms each, female Mwezi (pronounced Mw-e-zee) and males Django (Jan-go) and Kianga (Kee-ang-uh) are learning fast as they grow from cheeky cubs into majestic lions.

African River Trail keeper Kristen Garcia said the proactive healthcare training enables keepers to get a good look at the little lions’ bodies in the least intrusive way.

“With this training we get to check their coats, bellies and eyes when they’re in a sit position, and we also get a good look at their paws and nails when they stand up to ensure everything is healthy,“ Ms Garcia said.

“We use positive reinforcements such as a sound clicker and a high-value treat when they engage with us, but they can also leave at any time if they don’t want to participate.“

Aside from being mentally stimulating, the training also establishes a positive relationship between keeper and animal.

This relationship is key to establishing more advanced behaviours as the cubs grow and is preparation in case any medical interventions are ever needed.

“All of the cubs are doing really well with their training and are becoming quite competitive with each other,“ Ms Garcia said.

“Visitors can see this training almost every day, but the cubs are constantly getting up to mischief with one another and interacting with their surroundings, so there’s always something to see.“

Werribee Open Range Zoo visitors have an opportunity to see the cubs each day and also after the sun sets during the Sunset Safari experience, which is running each Saturday from 5.30pm to 9pm until March 9.