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How to get a lion to eat his dinner

Bill is a crowd favorite and a superstar at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, but he has some bad habits. (Courtesy photo)
Bill is a crowd favorite and a superstar at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, but he has some bad habits. (Courtesy photo)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Thursday, July 18, 2013 11:02 am
July 18, 2013 Bill the lion needs no introduction. His laid-back attitude and stunning physique make him a crowd favorite in the African Journey area at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo.

Thanks to his penchant for resting on the exhibit window, he's in thousands of family photos. Could he be any more of a superstar?

"I think Bill just enjoys being awesome," says zookeeper Jennifer McDermott.

Bill was only 2 years old, with a scruffy little mane, when he arrived in 2009. As he prepares to celebrate his 7th birthday on July 22, he has matured into a beautiful 435-pound adult male lion — with a few bad habits.

According to McDermott, “Bill is the pickiest eater I’ve ever seen.”

Because lions eat only one thing – meat – this can be a problem.

The zoo buys a frozen prepared meat diet (similar to a tube of ground beef) by the ton. When a new batch of meat arrives, keepers know that Bill will snub his finicky nose at it, at least for the first few days.

“He makes what I call a ‘yuck’ face, like a little kid,” says McDermott. “He’ll scrunch up his eyes, stick out his tongue, and walk away from his food.”

In lion-speak, this apparently means, “I don’t wanna eat this, and you can’t make me!”

McDermott doesn’t worry about Bill’s diva-like attitude regarding his dinner. “He eventually eats it,” she says.

Unlike Bill, Ina the lioness is very interested in her food.

When McDermott calls the cats to dinner at the end of the day, Ina makes a beeline for the meat placed in their night quarters.

Bill takes his sweet time. “We just wait him out,” says McDermott. When he does decide to come inside, “He walks very slowly,” she says.

Bad habits aside, McDermott is in awe of Bill. “I love looking into his eyes,” she says. “He’s just beautiful.”

Read more about lions on the zoo website at http://kidszoo.org/our-animals/african-journey/african-lion/.On Monday, Bill the lion turns age 7!

From 10 a.m.-3 p.m., you can join the birthday celebration by participating in these activities at the Lion Den in the African Journey area at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo:

*Learn facts about lions in a fun True or False trivia game.

*Impersonate a lion and take photos in a lion replica.

*Sign and leave a note on a lion-sized birthday card for Bill.

*Learn about Bill and Ina's habits and favorite things — you won't believe some of them!

*Receive your own lion tail to wear around the zoo.

*Hang out with the Bill the Lion mascot at 11 a.m.

*We will also be singing happy birthday to Bill at 11 a.m.

See you there! If you can't make it, Tweet and Facebook us your best birthday wishes for Bill, and we'll send them to him!Join us for an evening of learning, exploring and fun at the zoo's annual Educator Appreciation Night from 4 to 7 p.m. July 31.

You'll participate in behind-the-scenes tours, mini workshops and get fascinating info to tie into your lessons. Plus you'll enjoy food, giveaways, and 3 PGP points, and it's all free with pre-registration!

Pre-register by sending an e-mail with your name, grade level, county and school to education@kidszoo.org.


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