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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46 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 9.18 THE BIT more things to do, such as giving her a large block of frozen blood or encouraging a scavenger hunt with food hidden throughout her exhibit. "If you provide the right help to the animal at her age, she'll be fine," Taylor says, adding that in Africa it would not be unusual for a lioness to live out her last few years alone, as males tend to die at a younger age. (ough they might also live out their life with a pride.) Taylor says understanding animals is all about spending time with them, learning their cues. "e more that you can read behavior, you know what a certain behavior means," he says. "at's information. It can tell you if it's cold or hungry." I get it. When my golden retriever, Pony, would trot to the back door, his nails click-clacking on the hardwood like high heels, I knew his bladder was full. Jumps at the door after my absence? Happy! Watching me leave by sitting so close to the window that the glass caught fog with each exhale? Anxiety. is wasn't just vaude- ville. I read him well. at is, until I didn't like what he was trying to tell me. In the last few months of his 15-year life, I knew something wasn't right. He kept losing weight. A two-mile jog became a walk around the block became a slow, stiff-legged errand to the corner. en he couldn't even do that. e vet softly urged me. But I resisted, not yet ready for the last resort. In March, when he stopped moving completely for a full day, I tearfully made the call. Before the vet euthanized him, I sat next to Pony on my floor for about two hours, my hand rest- ing on his back. He'd grown so thin I could feel every notch in his spine when my hand went for a long, gentle stroke. At times, he'd bristle. A sign of love had become painful. e language we devise with our pets seems easily transferable. Taylor tells the story of a mother and daughter who complained to him a few years ago. ey reported that the zoo's fishing cats (a medium-sized wild cat native to southeast Asia) were obviously depressed. Taylor asked the women what made them think that. "ey said it's how their cats at home looked when they were sad," he recalls. Taylor was confident that the fishing cats were just fine. (He says only one animal at the zoo — an anxious snow leopard — has ever been put on psychiatric medication.) "We're going to do everything we can to make sure the animals are doing the best they can," Taylor says. "I mean, you see a lion for five minutes — the hottest part of the day — and you expect a lion to be jumping through hoops. A cat can't do that. ey're not supposed to be doing something all the time." Further, he asks: What does a happy lion look like? Kariba's a laid-back lioness, I'm told. Angela Johnson has been working with big cats at the Louisville Zoo for 18 years, and she says Kariba is "confident, intelligent" and a tad stubborn too. Kariba grumbles at Siyanda, but that's about it. He doesn't get her reproductive hormones going, which would be a sign of interest. ey may never be introduced, instead living with a metal mesh barrier between them, rotating in and out of the exhibit one at a time. Kariba often prefers to stay in the back holding area rather than heading out on display. "ere's not much we can do to make a 300-pound lion go outside," Johnson says. (As an aging lady myself, I totally identify with wanting to stay at home and hide from crowds.) Johnson doesn't think Kariba is grieving at all. In fact, she says, Kariba showed no signs of mourning when her mother died in 2001 or when her sister did in 2012. Digging around on YouTube one day, I find a 2013 video of now-deceased Kenya roaring. A female voice coos at how precious and happy the lion looks after completing a strut in the exhibit and settling into a little cove. "He's smiling," she says. A few commenters con- cluded otherwise. "I can feel his depression," one wrote. Another assessment: "at was a call lions make when they're separated from their pride. Stop caging animals." e YouTube video of Kenya's maybe-happy/maybe-sad roar led me to vid- eos of lions "mourning," which rabbit-holed me to an ABC News clip following the death of Cecil, the beloved wild lion that lived in a national park in Zimbabwe. Researchers had tracked him for years until, in 2015, an American dentist who traveled to Africa to hunt big game killed him. In the segment, a lion expert from the University of Oxford who had been studying Cecil's pride, states that Jericho, Cecil's best pal, was mourning. He could hear it in Jericho's roars. "Not a full-throated lion roar, with all the confi- dence, but a quieter contact call," the expert said. "He's just waiting for Cecil to reply.

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