Continuing on the Game of Thrones note (and, no, I have not been keeping up with the show, but I am through all 5 books) I wanted to share a nerdy connection I made today. I am currently working at Drakenstein Lion Park. The lion park gets its name from the Drakenstein Mountains in the area. And the literal translation of “Drakenstein” is Dragonstone! All of you GoT people out there will catch that reference. I’m LIVING on Dragonstone, people! Not that I fancy myself a Baratheon, honestly I think I’m more of a Tully, but it’s cool nonetheless.
|Asad - one of the young lions|
Anyways, back to life among the lions. This week was pretty exciting in that we did some heavier building. But first let me explain a little about our younger lions. When lions are less than two years of age, they tend to climb a lot. They are learning, exploring their territory, testing their limits. We currently have two lions under two years of age (and they are cute boys too!) and they are both starting to fill into their manes. But you can tell there is still a lot of cub left in them. Little Leo is one of the young boys, and let me tell you – he is a character! Every time you walk between the perimeter fences he stalks you in the grass, totally oblivious to the fact that you can see him quite well. You will see his shoulders going up and down, tail flicking back and forth before he rushes the fence to scare you.
Every lion has what is called a holding camp, which is connected to their larger enclosure. The holding camp is used to hold them while we go into the large enclosure to clean (pick up feces, feathers, fill in holes they dug, clean water trough, fix any broken fencing, etc.). We lure them in with a chicken for them to eat, so we can safely go inside. With Little Leo, though, he doesn’t like to go into his holding camp. We think he fears going in because he doesn’t know how he can get back to his territory (his safe place). So we worry that because of this fear, when we do get him into his holding camp, he will try his hardest to get out and back to his territory – at no matter what cost. This is not only unsafe for us, but it’s dangerous for Leo to climb, get nasty shocks from the electric fence (which HURTS, by the way – it knocks you flat on your behind – and I would know because it happened to me last week), destroy the fencing, and be under such stress. The last thing we want is for the lions to be stressed or unhappy. So Paul (aka Dr. Xavier) decided that we needed to build him a house in his holding camp.
|Johan putting on finishing touches with Leo right behind him|
It took us about two days to complete the house, but we had so much fun doing it! We built it right up to the sliding gate between the holding camp and the large enclosure, so that Leo can just go right inside his new house, eat his chicken, and not panic. Basically the house is four-sided with a top and just an entrance. It’s all thick half-round planks, too, so we did a lot of heavy lifting and hammering in 6-inch nails. Jason (aka Flash Gordon) and I had races to see who could pound in the nails the fastest. And I beat him more often than not. That’s what happens when your dad loves construction and uses his children as his little minions (and also when you work in set construction in college for 4 years as well). Poor Jason.
But the coolest thing in the world about this whole building process was that Leo was right at the fence the whole time, watching what we were doing! How many people can say that they spent the whole day being inspected by a young lion? He hasn’t quite developed his roar yet, either, so he spent a lot of time “snarling” at us and telling us who was boss (just picture Simba in The Lion King trying to roar). Honestly, I think that it’s the most amazing thing. And I don’t think that anyone can understand unless they have sat, mere inches away from a lion’s face, and felt the sheer power of just his gaze. (Sidenote, Leo has the coolest eyes – they are a deep reddish brown) There is something about staring into such a powerful and intelligent animal’s eyes. I will think more on this thought, and elaborate more in another post.
|Leo watching us work|
I am quite tired from today’s work! Anyways, dear friends and family, I hope life is treating you all well and that you are finding happiness in the little things. Because that’s what life is, isn’t it? A whole bunch of little things strung together? And everyone deserves to be just as happy as I am right now. So, God bless. I wish you well all the way from South Africa.