Kwanza was born three-and-a-half weeks ago.
His mother lost her milk, so the little ‘big cat’ is being hand raised by Stephanie Robinson, co-director of the Darling Downs Zoo.
He sleeps a lot. “Even an adult lion in the wild sleeps 18-20 hours a day,” Stephanie says. “He’s adorable. These last few days he’s starting to wrestle and become playful.”
“Because he’s our first we looked for a Swahili name. Kwanza means ‘first’.”
Surrounded by farmland, Stephanie admits the animals she tends are quite exotic compared to cattle and sheep. “A lot of people look at us and think, ‘oh, you’re so lucky’. But there’s also a lot of stress. Because there’s still not a lot known, there’s always going to be some small issues you’ve got to try and overcome. Something as simple as diarrhoea or constipation, there’s other things as well. Like any new baby, you have the joy and the cutesy time. But you also have a lot of stress of ‘are you doing it right?’ It’s also getting up through the middle of the night…It’s a lot of work.”
“He’s in a little baby porta cot. I originally used it for some Macaws years ago, handraising them. He’s not going to last very long in it because he has sharp claws and it’s material,” she laughs. “For these first few weeks it’s really good to keep him in there, so he’s not getting into things he shouldn’t.”
When there is time for a quick cuddle, Stephanie says the feeling is familiar to anyone who loves animals. “The beauty of animals, when they do love, they love unconditionally,” she explains. “You always get that wonderful feeling. Lion cubs are definitely no different.”
The zoo hopes Kwanza will gain enough strength to meet the public before Christmas.
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