I've always loved spring's rites of passage with vibrant florals bursting of color and alluring scents -- along with it comes the whisper of newness and sometimes the roar of the familiarity. This season it will be a roar -- at least at the LA Zoo.
This spring, the new power couple in town is Hubert and Kalisa, two glorious lions who have just arrived at the Zoo. I couldn't help but fall in love with them. My hunch is you will too. The two 15-year-old tawny blondes from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle who have been a couple for six years and their presence will fill a void this city has been painfully aware of for the past two years. The LA Zoo lost its beloved Cookie, 23, in 2012 after suffering cancer. She made history four years prior as the first queen of the beasts to undergo laparoscopic heart surgery. She and her male companion Lionel arrived at the zoo in 1997, on loan from the Wildlife Way station above Sylmar. Both had been prior house pets. The majestic fellow died in April 2011, also 23.
Lions can live up to 14 years in the wild and up to three decades in captivity. Cookie, zoo officials say, was known for her own special roar. And when the couple roamed the enclosed terrain together and roared in unison they really drew a crowd.
Kalisa and Hubert just made their public debut on March 28th at the zoo's renovated lion exhibit. Prior to their arrival, guests were always asking zoo officials where the lions were. It is hard to imagine a zoo for a city like L.A. without African lions, a kingdom without a reigning king and queen.
These two are certainly older than the usual spring arrivals. Last year, a 135-pound newborn Masai giraffe Sofie was birthed at the zoo. In 2011 Joey the baby Koala, twin peninsular pronghorns and a desert bighorn sheep were born. Zoo officials have said they've been involved in a program for more than a decade to bring the hoofed mammal Pronghorn from Baja back from the brink of extinction and now the LA Zoo has the distinction of being the first zoo to breed the species. Only 250 are left in the wild.
The zoo is one of the city's overlooked treasures. It was originally called the Griffith Park Zoo when it opened in 1912 about two miles south of the current site. It moved into its current home in 1966. It was upgraded in the 90s and a new director was brought aboard. The Botanical Gardens boast 7,400 plants. There is so much to see and the city zoo needs its citizens to support it. What better time than spring?
There are some great spring activities coming up for families like the Big Bunny's Spring Fling April 18-20 and the Earth Day Expo follows on April 27. Take it from an animal activist who proudly serves on LA's Parks, Recreation and Tourism Commissions and Boards - our new residents are something to roar about.
Here's a peek at the two below: