The four rare Asiatic Lion cubs (Panthera leo persica) at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park have been to the vet - or rather, the vet has been to them – for their 9-week vaccinations.
For the zoo staff, it’s thrilling to be up close to the cubs, who were born May 15, but they must carefully follow safety protocols. Speed and efficiency are essential so the cubs can be reunited with the protective mother Lion who is prowling nearby.
The keepers wear big leather gauntlets because the cubs are feisty, snarling throughout, while the growls of their mother echo in the den. The four are vaccinated, micro-chipped, given a quick health check and weighed. They are soon back with their mother.
Veterinarian Catherine Bergzoll says, “We use a cat vaccine - the process is essentially the same as for pet cats. We give them a thorough exam to check things like their hearts and in male cats we check that their testicles have descended.”
At 9 weeks the four Lion cubs weighed between 16 and 19 pounds (7.6 to 8.8 kilos) – far more than your average adult domestic cat which tips the scales at around 8 to 11 pounds (4 to 5 kilos). The Lions are also stronger, wilder and come fully-equipped with claws and teeth.
“We try to handle them as little as possible,” says Bergzoll of the cubs. “Making sure they are growing and increasing in weight is important.” Closed circuit cameras allow the staff to check on the cats often without disturbing the new family.