How to train your lion

Before the yet-to-be-named cubs make their debut, senior zookeeper Faizal Aziz tells us how he cares for these furry felines
Singapore Zoo - Faizal Aziz
By Time Out Singapore editors |
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Although they’ll grow up to be ferocious carnivores, these lion cubs are impossibly cute. Last September, the Night Safari’s resident Asian lions – Khapat and Amba – welcomed a pair of newborns to their pride, bringing the number of big cats there to 12. The zoo hopes the yet-to-benamed cubs will be ready for the public eye this month, but before they make their debut, senior zookeeper Faizal Aziz tells us how he cares for these furry felines.

'The cubs will attempt to play with everything… even initiating fights'

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How are cubs at the zoo usually named?

We name them based on their individual characteristics and personalities – for example if they’re fearless, friendly or tenacious.

Why do they have to be sequestered away from the public after birth?

We need to introduce the mother and cubs to the rest of the pride. The cubs also need to be vaccinated to strengthen their immune system, and our exhibit has a large ditch that can pose a danger to them. They’ll first need to be a bit bigger and more familiar with the habitat. This usually takes between three to five months.
Singapore Zoo - Lion cub
Photo: David Tan

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How do you ensure the mother doesn’t abandon her cubs? 

We ensure the mother has a comfortable and safe environment to give birth and raise her cubs in. She is kept in a quiet space away from the rest of the pride when she is close to giving birth. Visual barriers are placed to give her a sense of security and noise levels are kept to a minimum. 

The cubs look as mischievous and lazy as cats. Is this actually the case? 

Like all young animals, they’re curious and playful as it’s part of the growing process. Cubs interact with their mother and each other as they engage in ‘play’ behaviour. From two months onwards, keepers start noticing which cubs are going to be friendly, laid-back or fearful. The cubs will attempt to play with everything, stalking and biting each other or even initiating fights. This is part of their socialising process; they will eventually have to learn how to live together in the pride. In the case of our pride, the cubs learn the social dynamics of their pride from the younger adults.
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