Tuesday, March 10, 2009

here kitty, kitty, kitty

When we were in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, one of the attractions we visited (more than once) was the lion exhibit at the MGM Grand. To the side of their casino, there's a huge enclosed glass area where they have lions. They even have a walk through glass tunnel that runs through the middle of the exhibit, giving you an even better view of the big cats. If you're lucky, one of the lions is laying on top of the tunnel and you have the opportunity to be even closer to one of these magnificent creatures.

When we took our kids to Las Vegas back in 2003, we visited the same attraction and walked away a little disappointed after watching the lions do nothing but sleep the whole half hour we were there. Things were different this time.

When we arrived, there were two large male lions sitting regally on the glass tunnel. One of them had a chewed up ball between his paws but wasn't doing anything with it. We also noticed that there were three men in the glass enclosure with the lions. We were curious as to what they were doing there. About that time a voice boomed through the speakers giving us tidbits of information about the lions and their trainers. The three men were trainers.

We were informed that there is a lion sanctuary about 20 miles outside Las Vegas, and that is where the lions actually live. They bring in 2-3 lions at a time, rotating them every 6-8 hours. Their trainers live on the campus and work with them on a daily basis. And lions sleep up to 20 hours a day. Which explains why that's all we saw back in 2003 and the subsequent visits Don and I made on this last trip.

That's why this first viewing was so special. These lions were not only awake, but they were playful - like little kittens. It started when the lion with the ball dropped the ball. The trainer picked it up and actually teased the giant cat with it. After he teased the cat with it, he set it on top of another toy on top of a rock next to where the lion was sitting. You could tell the cat wanted to play. It didn't take too long before he pounced on it, sending it flying across the enclosed area. He followed it, grabbed it, dropping it, pouncing on it... repeat... repeat.

The same trainer would actually grab the ball or kick the ball and that lion, and then the other one, played along, much to the delight of the onlookers. It was such a treat to watch these two massive cats play and interact with the trainer like they were domestic kitty cats. Some of their behavior even reminded me of how a dog would play.

The only down side of the time we spent watching was that picture taking was nearly impossible because of the thick glass separating my camera and the lions, thus, the poor quality of these photos. These were the best of the batch. But I don't need the pictures to remember such an awesome experience.

This last picture hasn't been cropped in any way. I used my zoom but I was also very close to this very playful cat.


Susan said...

Glad you were blessed with this great, exciting exhibit. I think your pictures are great.

Karen said...

Great pictures! We saw this exhibit a few years ago and the lions weren't very active. What a cool experience, to watch them play.

DAD said...

Fascinating! Sam is almost their size. I bet he'd like to play with those kitty cats. Ya, right!

Momma Roar said...

Great pictures! What amazing creatures!! Thanks for sharing!

Melissa said...

So so fun!! The pictures look great to me :)
I remember being in the Portland zoo and one of the polar bears decided to play. He would dive into the water and push his toys around. Then climb out, dive back in and play some more. It was awesome!

MightyMom said...

well, is it that lions sleep 20 hours a day or that MALE lions sleep 20 hours a day...you know they're LAZY right??


Jamey said...

That is so cool! I love zoos, animals, aquariums. Fun!!

Maxine said...

That is so neat, Diana! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about that. Those pictures are so cute!! They actually do play like kittens. Don't mind watching them with the glass between us!

Christine said...

Look at his massive paws! Oh, they are so spectacular. That must have been such a thrill!