Brrr. That about sums up life in Chicago this week, as schools closed, temperatures fell well into the negative and everyone did their best to bundle up and hunker down.
Of course, there were plenty of people who had to brave the elements. Among them were the zoo’s animal caregivers and essential support staff, who made their way into work Monday and Tuesday
Given the extreme temperatures, I can’t say enough about the commitment of the employees who came in to ensure the animals were cared for. We did our best to respect the conditions—the zoo closed at 3 p.m., and several buildings were closed to the public to help keep the cold air from creeping inside. That didn’t stop a few visitors from making it to the zoo as well—families trying to stave off cabin fever, it seemed!)
Thankfully, the worst of the weather has passed. So I thought I would focus instead on something more fun instead this week—a pair of zoo birthdays!
The first came Monday as male African lion Sahar turned 4. Sahar has matured a lot since arriving at the zoo back in March 2012. He’s gained 140 pounds of muscle, now tipping the scales at 409 pounds. His mane has filled in, replacing the “bad haircut” look of his early days at the zoo with the full dignity of a male lion. His confidence has increased as well, caregivers report, placing him on near equal footing with his exhibitmate, 18-year-old Myra.
African lion Sahar has grown a lot since making his Lincoln Park Zoo debut in spring 2012. Left photo by Mando Tejeda.
Even at 400 pounds, Sahar still acts like a kid sometimes. He’s eager to roll a boomer ball around his exhibit or seek out a favorite treat—baby food—hidden by his keepers. It’ll be fun to watch him continue to grow in the years ahead.
Another zoo birthday takes place tomorrow, as Sichuan takin Xing Fu turns 1. (His half-brother Mengyao will repeat the milestone February 9).
A baby Xing Fu poses with mom Mei Li in this photo from last February.
The youngsters are still living with their parents in the herd at the Antelope & Zebra Area. They’re bigger than they used to be, obviously, weighing in at 300 and 356 pounds, respectively. But while the two takins are growing more independent, their moms are still able to put them in their place if they get out of line, as Mengyao learned this week after head butting his mom, Jinse.
A year later, Sichuan takin boys Mengyao and Xing Fu are now roughly a third their adult size. Photo courtesy of Zoological Manager Laszlo Szilagyi.
These birthdays are fun milestones, but they also remind us there’s plenty to see at Lincoln Park Zoo, even in winter. We hope you’ll come by to see for yourself this weekend.