Behind-the-scenes at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Real lion behind thick glass, thank goodness!

We took a "Lions and Friends" tour at the Safari Park.  We arrived to learn that we were going to get a private tour.  We began with a small cart tour of the perimeter of the Park.  Toni, our guide, was trying the spot the youngest of the rhinos, only a few months old.  We passed a small herd of mule deer that live on the perimeter of the Park - part of a preserve maintained by the Park.  They were so cute!

Looks like a postcard!

Then we heard a loud bleating.  Our guide spotted a newborn sika deer just below the fence line.  The mother was busy cleaning up the baby, which was born less than an hour ago.

Then, we went to see the "bedrooms" of the okapi.  First, we got to feed hibiscus flowers to two duiker.  
The duiker have personal space, too.

The okapis like alone time, so they are rotated on and off exhibit.  They have stalls, like horse stalls for bad weather.  They enjoyed eating the carrots and romaine lettuce we gave them.
Okapis are large African forest dwellers and they loves veggies

The main event was a tour of the lions' indoor quarters.  The younger lions were in the back relaxing.  They rotate with an older male and his two mates to be on exhibit.  The older lions came in for feeding, while we were there.  The male jumped up, roared and then settled down to eat a cow femur. Drama!  The lion easily chewed through the heavy bone.  We learned about the training the lions undergo to make the staff able to perform health inspections.  They are trained to present their tails for blood draws.  They also learn an emergency recall signal that brings them back to their bedrooms.  We learned about their diets and their personalities - one loves to play with cardboard.  They are given deer horns as chew toys.

The tour was a great experience!  It offered up close views of animals and fascinating insights into challenges of caring for the needs of so many different types of animals.  It is a must for lion lovers! The tour lasted two hours and the time flew by.  Allow 15 minutes to walk all the way down to the Okavango station, one of the further points in the park from the entrance.


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