Louisville Magazine

SEP 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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meridiansenior.com LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 9.18 45 A BIT DEEPER King of the Jungle. at brings expectations. No jungle at the Louisville Zoo, instead a manmade savanna rising from a grass moat. But there lies the king, enjoying the spoils of a squat shade tree, the slope of his rib cage puffing and contracting at an up-tempo, breathing through August. e three-year-old male lion, Siyanda, is new to Louisville, a transfer from a zoo in Texas, and he's well-conditioned to napping through the redundant requests — "ROAR!" — coming from 10-and-unders passing by his exhibit. (Sometimes their parents too.) Also com- mon: "Here kitty, kitty" and that kissy noise people make to housecats. Siyanda ignores it all, lifting his majestic, maned head to glance through a fence at gi- raffes who will always be neighbors but never lunch, only to sink back into his politely crossed paws. Later, he turns his face and body away from spectators. I eavesdrop on those who anticipate a thrill but encounter a slug: "He's lazy." "He must be tired." "He's under that tree again." "Where's the female lion?" at would be Kariba, the zoo's resident li- oness. At 22 years old, the geriatric cat sleeps a lot too. at's what lions do, sometimes for 15 or 20 hours a day. Zookeepers tell me that when she is alert, she tears at meaty shanks and swats a plastic blue barrel the size of a beer keg. On an unusually cool day in June, I was walking somewhere near the rhino exhibit when I heard her release a series of hoarse, bark-y roars. Dang. Just a few minutes before, my children and I and a stranger had begged for some action. e stranger had held his iPhone in place, thumb hovering above the photo button, ready to archive any suggestion of wild that the 260-pound cat might muster. "Maybe she's depressed," he'd wondered aloud. Last fall, on the morning of Nov. 10, Kariba's longtime companion, Kenya, was euthanized. e 18-year-old lion was weak and losing weight, suffering from a condition that made it difficult to clot blood, accord- ing to the zoo. Kariba and Kenya had spent every day together for 12 years, minus meals (zookeepers don't want the lions fighting over food) and occasional separation for a few hours at a time. Zoo regulars would often spot them lying on one another and prowl- ing their rocky little campus, like they were cooking up something sneaky. Upon Kenya's death, the confined king- dom became hers. She was alone. She arrived at the Louisville Zoo in 2000 from a Califor- nia rescue as part of a pride that included her mother, Azania, and sister, Amanda. Kenya eventually joined, ascending to pride leader. All have passed away. A few visitors have contacted zoo staff with concerns: Is she lonely? Is she grieving? Is she sad? Without her longtime mate to huddle with, I wonder too. I'm embarrassed to report that my lion knowledge is largely influenced by my kids' Lion King habit. I can't always discern fact from Disney. But any creature accustomed to another must recognize their sudden absence, must sense a stark new isolation. And lions are the only social big wild cats. ey bond. (at's con- firmed fact. Source: Not e Lion King.) Kariba, you OK, girl? Recent research proves animals do have feelings. A 2014 New York Times story on the issue listed studies that show shore crabs remember pain, chimpanzees perform favors for one another and dogs really do burst with joy in their owners' presence. en there's the story from this past summer of an orca in the Pacific Northwest that carried her dead newborn calf for 17 days on her back or in her mouth, the mother orca's so-called "grief tour." Still, scientific types really don't like it when humans assign emotions and thoughts to animals. Term: anthropomorphism. "We will never know what's going on in an ani- mal's mind," says Steve Taylor, the assistant director of conservation, education and collection at the Louisville Zoo. "We're not inside." Taylor has worked at the zoo on and off (more on than off) since 1975 and says his specialty is animal behavior. In the months after Kenya died, he says zookeepers watched Kariba closely, looking for signs of distress — not eating, excessive licking. ey offered her more attention,

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