FROM ZOO TO YOU Celebrating the world's lions

By Emily Sexson

It’s a well-known fact that the most gorgeous lions in the world live at the Lee Richardson Zoo. Ok, maybe this isn’t a fact so much as a shared bias of many of our staff members and guests alike. However, if you’ve ever visited the pride, it’s hard not to notice how particularly handsome each of these big cats are. 

On Aug. 8, we honored not only the lions at the zoo, but all lions, as we celebrated World Lion Day at the lion habitat.

Lions are second only to tigers in size, with most adult males weighing around 400 pounds and measuring over 6 feet in length (not including their tail). Lee Richardson Zoo is home to African lions, which are native to sub-Saharan Africa. This species is adapted to a habitat consisting of grassy plains, savannah, open woodlands, and scrub country. 

As African lions are the most well-represented of the two, it may be surprising for some to learn that a distinct subspecies of Asiatic lions lives in the Gir forest of India.

There are five individual lions living at Lee Richardson Zoo. The eldest male is named Razi. If you looked up the definition of regal in the dictionary, there is probably a picture of Razi next to it. With long strides, he gracefully strolls about his habitat effortlessly. He can often be found calmly surveying his domain from atop the waterfall feature in his habitat, slowly blinking his eyes and treating onlookers to a twitch or two of his tail. Nothing seems to phase Razi; however, let it be known that lions can leap as far as 36 feet and run up to 50 miles per hour. Razi can move from one side of the habitat to another in no time flat and often does.

Amali is the eldest female of the pride. She is joined by her daughter, Lulu. The pair are almost identical in appearance; however, Amali does have a special blotch of brown in one eye that Lulu does not. 

Keepers who work with lions can distinguish the two from one another more easily and have shared that Lulu is often the troublemaker, while Amali is the more mature feline in every way. Lulu loves to wrestle and play with mom and tends to be the more inquisitive of the pair. See if you can tell who’s who next time you visit.

There are two outdoor yards at the lion habitat. While Razi, Amali, and Lulu share one side, the other side is inhabited by two brothers, Asani and Bantu. Just as they may have in the wild, these boys make up their own bachelor pride, known as a coalition. When visiting Asani and Bantu, you can tell the difference between the two by looking at their handsome faces. Asani has the longer, skinnier snoot and is a smidge darker than his brother, while Bantu’s face is a bit more round. The brothers came to LRZ from Zoo Miami in 2016 and have really grown through the years; their manes are much fuller and darker than they were on arrival.

To learn more about the individual lions as well as the species, be sure to stop by the lion habitat.  For more information, visit our website at www.leerichardsonzoo.org or give us a call at 620-276-1250. Hope you had a fantastic World Lion Day!

Emily Sexson is a communication specialist at Lee Richardson Zoo.