conservation ftw

The lion in my profile picture

Me_Ajani

Because I am asked all the time about my profile picture, I thought I’d take some time today to tell you the story of how that photo came to exist.

This photo was taken in summer of 2009. At the time I worked and volunteered for an AZA-accredited institution, working in the education department and volunteering (through the city) to assist with animal care. I volunteered in the section that included large carnivores, and in 2009, four lion cubs were born; this is one of them. He was the largest of the cubs, which included three males and one female, and it took a whole group of us to get them through their weekly veterinary assessments, especially when they got big enough to run around the room.

These lion cubs are now 4 years old and at other institutions as part of the SSP– Species Survival Program. Many zoo animals are part of the program, which includes extensive genetic documentation and husbandry information, all for the sake of maintaining a genetically healthy and diverse captive population with the intention of one day returning these species to the wild. The goal is to have 95% diversity, which means any given individual can only be related to 5% of the total captive population. This is why big cat births like this are so rare: they are managed so as to not be over-populated in captivity, and to keep diversity high. A more genetically diverse population is better equipped to survive diseases and less likely to have birth defects.

Important things to know about this specific situation: it happened under very strict supervision, and was for an extremely brief period of time. The cubs were separated from their mom for less than 30 minutes while she ate. Once the cubs reached about 3 months old, contact like this ceased, in part because they were getting too big to handle and in part because they were simply done with their “kitten” vaccines. The purpose of handling them was not only to help the veterinary exams go more smoothly, but also to help the cubs feel comfortable around humans, since they will spend their entire lives in captivity. Socialization reduces stress.

And that brings me to another important point. While I do have this photo posted, I do not encourage people to seek out photo opportunities with big cats or other wildlife. Paying for photos with cubs creates a market for breeding and exploiting big cats, and the cubs are the ones who suffer being taken from their mothers far too early (remember at 3 months they were too big to handle, but still not weaned) and often don’t survive. Even lions “raised” by people maintain all of their wild instincts, and should be respected as wild animals. My situation was in the course of work I was doing and not as part of a profit-making scheme.

That being said, I wouldn’t trade the experience I had working with and around the cubs for anything, and it’s one I might never have again. They were adorable and amazing and really a joy to watch as they grew, especially knowing they were doing their part to save their species, not only by simply being alive but by being ambassadors. These cubs allowed people a chance to get a glimpse into the wild, and hopefully to care just a bit more about saving their relatives still out there.

joanna irl

September rains

Well, I’m sitting in a coffee shop to access wifi and generally realizing that during moves I drink way too much coffee and tea and whatever else I get at coffee shops. Probably not great, but wifi is awfully helpful.

We got places to stay lined up in California (including four nights in Anaheim!!) until the 9th, so that feels pretty good. I’m not worried about this move, other than the usual stuff that goes along with being unsettled. There seems to be a wide variety of housing available, too, which is nice.

This move has (so far, anyway) been a little TOO smooth, if that makes sense. We haven’t had on anything go really wrong or become difficult. I shouldn’t complain (and I’m not, believe me!), but I remember all the stress of coming out to Hawaii in the first place… Of course, the cats were with us then and now they are waiting in limbo for me to come get them in October, so maybe that has a lot to do with it. I don’t have to find pet friendly hotels, or worry about driving them around, or worry about crazy import paperwork and blood samples and all of that this go-round. It’s so… NICE. Ha.

I’m thinking I’ll do the request I received for un-pretty Hawaii photos before we leave. If I have time this week, I’ll take some. In the meantime, I have photos from my last zoo day in one of the sections where I volunteer. Big kittehs!

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Aren’t they beautiful?

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It’s nice having a big zoom and access to great views. ^_^

joanna irl, the geek life

Revisiting Childhood: The Lion King

Tonight I went to see the Lion King in 3D and I have to admit that I got chills when the sun first popped into view and the music started. It’s a great piece of music for one, but also because it was fun to see something that I remember seeing in theaters. In fact, I remember liking the movie so much we went to see it a second time at the $1 theater six months after it first opened.

While a lot of the movie is exactly as I remember it (I have it on DVD, too, so it’s not like I haven’t seen it in years or anything, though it has been a while), there are several things I didn’t notice as a child. And the interesting thing about childhood memories is that they are sometimes so strong that they continue to be the main perception of something. For instance, even though I’ve seen this movie a dozen times at least (plus every week of summer camp at the zoo), and even though I’ve seen the Broadway production, for the first time I heard the dialog as an adult and not as a kid. I noticed the Reservoir Dogs joke (“They call me… Mr. PIG!”) and other such small things that meant nothing to me 17 years ago when the movie was made.

Another thing I noticed? For being out of food about about to starve, those lionesses are still kind of, well, rounded. If they looked like that in a zoo, they’d be put on a diet reduction. (Note to self: cartoonlionscartoonlionscartoonlionsCARTOONLIONS)

Also, how did Scar get his name? It’s got to be a nickname since everyone else has African-sounding names. Plus, if he was born with the scar then it’s not really a scar, now is it? It’s just a weird stripe on his face. As an adult I imagine that Mufasa and his brother fought as cubs and that Mufasa gave him the scar and therefore the new name. (I have found that my theory is correct. Hmm.)

Another difference from childhood? I’ve now studied Hamlet. Hello, plotline.

But really, it was fun to rediscover my favorite movie from childhood and to find that it’s still beautiful and that I can still enjoy it (even if I spent the entire opening sequence thinking “Hey, look, it’s a kudu!” and other such things). And I think I’d like the new remastered version on DVD to replace my old, well loved copy.