Woes of the lion king

When three females and a male get irritated, it is the male who suffers the consequences.

Liom at zoo 311 (photo credit: STUART WINER)
Liom at zoo 311
(photo credit: STUART WINER)
The lion may be known as the king of the jungle, but sometimes even a king isn’t the master of his own home. Lida, the veteran lion at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, has trouble in his den.
The problem stems from his personal entourage of females. With three lionesses to choose from, Lida should be on top of the world – but the ladies are giving him a hard time. For many years, Lida enjoyed a happy relationship with his veteran partner Eilania. All that changed two years ago with the arrival of a pair of lionesses from Germany called Indie and Levinia.
At 21 years old, Levinia is old for a lion, and after her uterus developed an infection it was removed.
Although the procedure was a success, without her uterus Levinia developed something of a hormone imbalance that has left her feeling rather butch. In the complex hierarchy of a pride of lions, Levinia has become very protective of Indie, whom she seems to desire as her mate, as does Lida.
Unhappy is the male who comes between a wild cat and her fancy. The tensions between Levinia and Lida have spread to the other lions. When three females and a male get irritated, it is the male who suffers the consequences.
“They gang up on Lida,” says Dennis Smith, chief carnivore keeper at the zoo, who has taken care of the lions for many years. In one particularly heated confrontation, Levinia goaded Indie into action, and the pair drove Lida over a protective fence and into the moat that runs the length of the lion exhibit.
“When you’ve got two females attacking, he didn’t have a chance,” Smith explains.
Unaccustomed to swimming, Lida went under three times before finally managing to keep his head above the water. It was only after keepers distracted the irate lionesses that he was able to drag himself back onto land and make a soggy run for the safety of his cage.
While no harm came to any of the lions, other confrontations have been more serious. Eilania has remained faithful to her king, and one night a fight broke out between Levinia and Eilania that left Eilania bleeding and hurt. Although she is now making a full recovery, the animosity between her and her attacker is still very palpable.
All of which leaves keepers in somewhat of a quandary. Ideally, all the lions should be allowed out of their cages every day to explore the exhibit, but now keepers are wary of leaving all of them together in case another fight flares up.
In the meantime, the lions are rotated according to those that get on best together, but Lida can never be sure when Levinia might encourage another fight. For the time being, he is keeping his distance from Levinia, and keepers are keeping a wary eye on all of them.