The lion that roared

by DaniGirl on November 16, 2009 · 6 comments

in Away we go, Photography

We zipped down to Southern Ontario this weekend to visit my brother’s family for my neice’s and nephew’s joint birthday party. The low point was standing at the side of the 401 on Friday afternoon, having just cleaned vomit off a toddler and his car seat, unable to get the lock on the Thule roof rack to engage and making contingency plans in my head like “if we pile the contents of the suitcases in the car around our feet and leave the suitcases themselves on the side of the road, we might be able to fit everything into the vehicle.” Luckily, it didn’t come to that, but I am not overly impressed by the fickleness of the lock system on the Thule.

The high point was visiting the Toronto Zoo with my brother’s family on Sunday afternoon. I love the Toronto Zoo madly, and we make it out there about every second or third year.

Tristan has been working on a Grade 2 science project, in which he had to choose an animal and make a diorama of the animal in its habitat out of a shoe box. We blew off most of last Sunday afternoon actually constructing the diorama (have I mentioned how much I love the homework?) but thought stopping off to visit the lions on the way home from our mini-vacation would give him some real-life perspective to add to his oral presentation.

The weather was perfect for a visit to the zoo. It was mild for November, although grey and cloudy. Because we visited off-season, the parking was free but a few animals had been removed from their habitats for the winter. I’m not sure if it was a factor of the time of day we visited or the weather conditions or dumb luck, but every animal seemed to be out frolicking and putting on a show. It was easily the most interesting visit to the zoo I can recall.

Since we were still facing a four-hour drive home to Ottawa after the zoo, we didn’t have time to meander as much as I might have liked. We peeked in at the elephants, laughed at the bathing hippopotamuses, admired the gangly giraffes, and were delighted by the antics of the baboon family.

The lions are at more or less the farthest point from the parking lot, so the kids were already starting to get tired by the time we got to the lion enclosure. Each other time I’ve visited the zoo, the lions were simply lying majectically in the sun with imperious and inscrutable expressions. Yesterday, though, we must have wandered by just behind the zoo keepers, because the lion and lioness were both munching happily on the bloody remains of something meaty.

Lion eating

Once he had finished his lunch, the lion got up and wandered over to the lioness and tried to get her attention, but she was still eating. He stretched and did that kneading-with-his-paws things that cats do — so cute! — and then wandered away again. Then suddenly there was this sound… I looked all around at first, thinking there was some sort of speaker that was amplifying the noise, but there wasn’t. It was the most intense, low-pitched rumbling noise and it actually took me a minute to realize it was the lion. He wasn’t exactly roaring, just kind of grumbling, but holy crap! If that was him mumbling to himself, I can only image how terrifying an actual angry roar must sound. Aha, I thought to myself, so that’s why he’s the king of the jungle! It was truly the experience of a lifetime, just to feel that rumbling roar deep in my own chest — well worth the $70 admission price to the zoo!

Obviously looking for mischief, he wandered back over to the lioness and they tussled for a bit, making me wonder if what we’d heard wasn’t some sort of rutting call. And then they stretched back out on the grass and went back to looking imperial and inscrutable.

Lion and lioness

As if that weren’t enough to make the trip memorable, we wandered over to the polar bear enclosure just in time to see one polar bear push another one right into the pond. And right behind them, the wolves took to a mid-day howl… the sound set the hair at the back of my neck on end.

It was well past the boys’ bed times by the time we finally rolled into Ottawa last night, but it was such a memorable trip to the zoo that I think we all agreed it was well worth it. Not to mention the fact that Tristan now has some excellent first-hand knowledge of lions for his science project, and I got a whole bunch of photo fodder!

Zoo mosaic

(As always, you can see the full set on Flickr.)

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Guillermo November 16, 2009 at 10:21 am

Wonderful pics, as usual! You never disappoint DaniGirl!

Thanks for sharing!

2 alison November 16, 2009 at 10:50 am

Lovely pix, Dani! I haven’t been to the Toronto Zoo in years. I think it’s time to take the girls road tripping.

3 mrsgryphon November 16, 2009 at 11:01 am

We took the girls there in October, on a very chilly day. We hid out with the gorillas for a long time, falling in love with the little 6 week old baby boy and his lovely mama. We also got to see the cheetahs running, the polar bears playing, the baboons being silly… I would definitely go again in the fall, based on our great experience this year!

Have you taken them to African Lion Safari yet? We had an amazing time there last year!

4 Valerie November 16, 2009 at 11:46 am

I love that zoo, too. Especially the hippo area – so cool to see them under water. And last time we were there we heard a zebra bray – did you know they sound just like donkeys? Weird.

5 Carly November 16, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Love, love, love the hippo’s ass!!! Great photos, all of them, but that’s my fave. What does that say about me, I wonder?

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