FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo will soon be home to two lions again. Bahati, a two-year-old male from the Racine Zoo, will join Ina, the female lion. Ina’s former companion, Bill, died in April.
An exact date of when Bahati will arrive hasn’t been set yet. When he gets to the zoo, there will be a standard quarantine process as Bahati is slowly introduced to Ina.
“Anytime we introduce two cats to each other it’s a delicate process. Even though lions are social species, we want to be cautious as we move forward,” Amber Eagleson, the curator of the African Journey, said.
The caretakers will start by having Ina and Bahati across the room from each other.
“They’ll be able to see each other for a few days or weeks, it just depends on the reactions we get from both of them,” Eagleson explained. “After we feel they’re comfortable with each other, we will move them side-by-side, but still with a door between them. They’ll get a better sense of smell of each other and can still see each other but can’t hurt each other.”
Bill’s death hit the zoo and the community hard. He had a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Bill was also two years old when he came to Fort Wayne and was only nine when he died. That’s similar to a 40-to-50-year-old human.
“Bill was very loved by the community and had a special place in everyone’s hearts. I’m confident Bahati will work his way into all of our hearts and we’ll fall in love with him just like we did with Bill,” Eagleson said.
After Bill died, there was talk of Ina going to another zoo and two new lions coming to Fort Wayne. But, in the end, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums decided it was best to bring a new companion to Ina.
“We are so excited she’ll be staying here and we know the guests are as well,” Bridget Pearson, the zoo’s director of communications said. “Our guests already have a passion for her and we know guests had that passion for Bill and we’re excited to have those connections with Bahati too.”
Ina will turn ten in October and has been at the zoo since 2008. There are no places to have Ina and Bahati mate, but there weren’t breeding recommendations for Ina and Bill either.
Bahati was born July 7, 2014 at the Racine Zoo. He has two siblings and was the runt of the litter with medical challenges in his first 30 days. That’s why he’s named Bahati, which means ‘lucky’ in Swahili. His caretakers now describe him as intelligent, curious, and a problem solver.
“He’s a favorite over at Racine. He seems very personable and recognizes his own name,” Eagleson said. “We hit the jackpot.”
Both Ina and Bahati will be on exhibit for the 2017 season.