Bailey interacts more than ever…

Following the sad loss of our last lioness Naja in March this year, Bailey our male lion has been adjusting to life without his companions.

We would like to place everyone’s mind at rest with an update about Bailey’s welfare. Bailey has become a big part of the Colchester Zoo family and whilst every option has been explored, including transferring him to another pride or bringing in a lioness, which may prove too much for him, these options feel almost impossible and irresponsible.

Bailey’s keepers saw a change in his behaviour for a few weeks after Naja passed, he seemed a little subdued and was vocalising a lot more than normal and they heard some different vocalisations as well. However, since that time we are pleased to say that he seems to have returned to his normal self. The Animal Care Team have noticed that he often watches them and is more inclined to follow them as they walk past, whereas he wasn’t that interested before. The Animal Care Team are working on rebuilding Bailey’s confidence with them in order to continue with some of his training.

Team Leader Emma said, “As part of a group of three lions, Bailey was always the last one to come over to us keepers for meat or training as the lionesses were always much more interested in us and very food oriented. We reward the lions for coming into their house and Bailey is not always keen to come over for his reward, so we are trying to encourage this more now. We have been finding that recently he will come to take his reward and participate in a short training session with us. At the moment we train target, lay down, paw and open mouth behaviours which he is doing very well. All these behaviours help us to care for Bailey without the need of any sedation as we can access his health closely and take blood samples if necessary.

The most important thing for the Animal Care Team now is to ensure that Bailey has lots of stimulation to fill the space lost by Naja’s companionship. In the past, Bailey has never interacted much with enrichment other than scents, with his favourites being elephant faeces, perfumes and Christmas trees. However, since we have been providing Bailey with some completely new items, we have been surprised and pleased to find that he enjoys interacting with them for quite some time.

Bailey’s health is our top priority and therefore our Animal Care Management Team is continuing to monitor Bailey’s health, both mentally and physically. We hope you will support our decision for now to keep Bailey at Colchester Zoo on his own, where he will frequently engage with keepers to monitor his health.

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