Monday, August 29, 2011

New digs for Detroit lions

The 2 male and 4 female lions at the Detroit Zoo have moved into a new habitat. A 6-month, $1 million renovation has doubled their living space and outfitted it with a 17'-high glass wall. As the zoo's Chief Life Science Officer Scott Carter explains, the wall not only gives visitors a better view of the big cats: "It gives [the cats] an opportunity to interact with guests. Sometimes, they'll take an interest in someone across the glass. They're predators. We're prey." There is no danger, however, since the wall of 60 tempered glass panels could withstand the impact of a 2½-ton truck traveling 40mph, boast zoo officials. The wall replaces the moat, and a watering hole has been added. The old lion habitat was innovative when it was built in 1928, offering a rock and dirt landscape rather than just a cage. But their improved home features grasses and several warming rocks, a comfort to the lions, each of which - according to zoo volunteer Lee Marks - was either rescued or born in captivity. Of the 6 lions in the new exhibit, 3 were removed from a junkyard, 1 from an abandoned home, and 1 from a crack house. Hopefully, the window wall will keep them from getting fat and sassy. Another volunteer Andrea Forster brought her 4-year-old grandson Nicholas to see the new habitat and reports, "It's wonderful. It gives them a lot more space. I know [they like it]; they were stalking a little girl yesterday."

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