Simba, the six-month old lion cub basked in the sunlight and the limelight. It was his show and he seemed to be a past master in showmanship. He scampered around the arena which was his domain and rolled on the ground. Then, he would trot up to the oohing and ahing onlookers for a closer encounter with them. They even reached out to try and pat him.
Watching Simba from behind the sidelines was little Skyla Pravari, impatiently waiting for what was to be for her another meeting with Simba. The little girl who had worn a dungaree with a lion motif on it kept saying, “I am sure Simba knows I am here”. Simba, meanwhile, continued his antics. The Sunday Observer photographer, Dushmantha Mayadunne was in the arena clicking away.
At first, Simba seemed totally unaware of or was deliberately ignoring the photographer. But suddenly, he became aware of Dushmantha and seemed irked by his presence. Simba, lunged at Dushmantha swiping at the lens. But the agile photographer spun on his heel and successfully avoided the lunge and swipe.
Simba took it in his stride and went back to his antics. By now, Skyla was virtually dancing with impatience to meet Simba.
The little lion cub’s Senior Keeper, Anurasiri picked up Simba, a tawny, wriggling ball of fur and brought him to where Skyla was on the other side of the fence. Now, the two little ones were on each side of the protective fence. Simba turned an unblinking stare at the spectators. Skyla called out softly to Simba who was wriggling to get down and gently started petting the wriggling lion cub.
Simba soon became very impatient to get down. Once on the ground he started capering around again. Then, Zoo Development Officer, Shamal Samaranayake who was supervising the event and keeper Arunasiri said time up and the morning’s show was over.
When led out of the arena Simba loped off to his home in the Dehiwala Zoo’s hospital. Simba ran at virtually the speed of light leaving his admiring spectators lagging far behind.
Simba was born to lioness Meera and lion Chandi at the Ridiyagama Safari Park in Southern Sri Lanka. It was a litter of three but all three cubs were weaklings and as is wont with lions, mother Meera rejected them. The Safari Park did their best but two of the cubs died. Gutsy little Simba survived. After eight hours of observation the Ridiyagama staff started Simba on Colostrum. Then, Simba was transferred to the Dehiwala Zoo which had top of the range care facilities for weak and sick animals.
Veterinary Surgeon In-charge of the Dehiwala Zoo’s hospital nursery, Dr. Damitha Dasanayake said that Simba was born on March 17, 2023 and was transferred to Dehiwala on March 20.
When Simba arrived at Dehiwala his immunity was low. Simba was started on big cat milk replacer at regular intervals. His weight too was regularly checked and all vitamins and vaccines were given.
When meat was included in Simba’s diet he was given only 50 gms at first. This quantity has now been increased to 750 gms.
Simba will continue to live at the Dehiwala Zoo for the present.
The staff undertakes the care for Simba under the direction of Director, Animal Health and Nutrition, Dr. Chandana Rajapaksha. Other staff members involved in Simba’s care are Dr. Damitha Dasanayake , Dr. Madusha Perera, Dr. Dinuka Sonnadara, Dr. Kashmini Sumanasekara, Lab Technician, Sasini Mendis, Lab Assistant, Chaminda Gurusinghe, Field Assistants, Nadeera Udayanga, Sarath Kumara, Iraj Motha, Inosh Fonseka and Simba’s Senior Keeper, Anurasiri and Junior Keeper, Iranga Shamal.
Nira Diaz and Mihi Deegodage
Pix: Dushmantha Mayadunne