When I look at the face of this beautiful lioness named Frosty, I see a long proud snout, focused curious eyes and a tufty beard (although I wouldn’t say that bit in front of her!). She lives at the Isle of Wight Zoo which regular readers will know is a sanctuary for rescued big cats overlooking the scenic beaches of Sandown. See how her rounded ears are facing forward probably listening to sounds in that direction, fully alert and concentrating on her surroundings, a perfect portrayal of the skill and patience required to capture prey so that herself and her family can survive. Her broad nose is designed for superior scent detection although her whiskers are a little lack-luster compared to mine (I wouldn’t mention that to her either!).
One of the things I respect about lions is that they are the only social members of the feline family, choosing to live in large groups called ‘prides’ and engaging in a variety of peaceful tactile behaviours such as head-rubbing with other lions in greeting and licking each other. So it is with great sadness I have to tell you that the noble big-hearted Charlie Brown passed away just a few days ago. I met Charlie Brown at the beginning of the year on a previous trip to the Isle of Wight Zoo and you can see a photo of him just below. He was a much loved character who arrived at the Zoo more than 10 years ago with his litter-mate Snoopy. Snoopy was a dominant male who used to lead the lions in their evening roaring sessions but he sadly died in 2012 when it was discovered that he had an inoperable tumour. Charlie relied on Snoopy for his sense of security so you can imagine how much Charlie must have missed his bro, but the keepers watched him carefully and after a while his neighbour Nahla moved in as his companion. Poor Charlie became unwell this year and had been undergoing chemotherapy when he suffered an aneurysm and was put to sleep. As I watched Nahla alone in the enclosure, I thought she looked lost and I wondered if she roared her goodbye when she realised Charlie would never come back. It’s a sad business and Charlotte (the Zoo Director) is broken-hearted but I have no doubt she will continue to pour lots of love on to the remaining residents and welcome any new arrivals in need of help.
I gave Nahla a soft trill and walked slowly away from her enclosure with my tail low in respect and headed towards the tiger enclosures whilst pondering the circle of life. Life does indeed go on and the gorgeous Ayesha lounging by her pool is a fine example, luxuriating in the winter sun and generally making the place look classy. There is something regal about these magnificent creatures, whether it’s the aristocratic gaze or the eye-catching stripes I can’t tell. Just across the way is my old buddy Xena the one-eyed white tiger I’ve told you about before. Unfortunately Xena’s rock where she sleeps fell-in the other day so her enclosure is in need of repairs. It seems they’re having a tough time at the moment at the Isle of Wight Zoo and my admiration goes to the keepers who were working hard on this freezing cold day while John, John’s daughter Natasha and myself sauntered around chatting to Charlotte and admiring the view (of the animals obviously)! On our way home while we were waiting for the ferry to take us back across The Solent, we watched the hovercraft leaving Ryde Pier and as the powerful engines fired up, the blast-off really took me by surprise and a mighty wind shot through my fur and made John’s curly hair stand on end. We all laughed!