A group of African lions who have been rescued from poachers by the Oregon Zoo excitedly look forward to playing with their “Leaping Lions” teaser toy, a combination of butcher paper and rope which has the ability to send the big cats high up into the air in pursuit. The toy is part of an enrichment program to keep the lions healthy, happy while also encouraging their very strong predatory instinct, while protecting them from the outside threats to the species as a whole.
Cat lovers have no doubt seen it before: the intense focus, followed by a claws-extended, acrobatic leap, some serious hang time and a not-always-graceful landing. Watching a cat get airborne is always exhilarating, but even more so when it weighs 350 pounds. At the Oregon Zoo, a new enrichment game is helping to keep the African lions fit while bringing out their explosive predatory instincts. Keepers have been using a mega version of this standard pet store item — constructed out of butcher paper and dubbed the “Leaping Lion Toy” — to mentally stimulate the big cats while encouraging natural hunting behaviors. …The Leaping Lion Toy is the most recent addition to a creative enrichment schedule meant to change up the cats’ routines and keep their surroundings interesting. Keepers also hide food on rocks and under logs, spray animal scents and have even walked goats through the habitat (when the lions were not in it) to leave “game trails.”