Meet the Birmingham Zoo’s newest addition, Josh the African lion + get exclusive details here

Josh, the new male lion at the Birmingham Zoo.
Josh, Birmingham Zoo’s new male lion. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

The Birmingham Zoo announced their newest addition yesterday, June 9th: a 6-year-old male African lion, all the way from the San Antonio Zoo. Josh joins the zoo’s other African lion, a female named Akili. Read on for exclusive quotes about Josh from Zoo Manager of Predators, Scott Kayser.

Why is Josh here?

Josh, the new male lion at the Birmingham Zoo.
Josh is 6 years old and was transferred from the San Antonio Zoo. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

Getting Josh to Birmingham has been an ongoing process since last November after Kwanza (the zoo’s last male lion) passed away. Lions are the only true social cats, and trainers were worried that the zoo’s female lion, Akili, would become lonely without Kwanza. Luckily, the Birmingham Zoo is a member of the African Lion SAFE program, which maintains the Species Survival Plan (SSP) and is key in facilitating lion transfers between zoos.

“Our Zoo has done a fantastic job supporting the African Lion SAFE program. Based on a recommendation from the African Lion Species Survival Plan® the Birmingham Zoo has now become the new home for Josh. We are truly excited to have a new lion join our Zoo family and even happier that now Akili has a companion!”

-Chris Pfefferkorn, Birmingham Zoo President & CEO

How does Akili feel about Josh?

Akili, the female lion at the Birmingham Zoo.
This is Akili, the zoo’s female lion. (Lily Plowden / Bham Now)

The ultimate goal in bringing Josh to the Birmingham Zoo is to introduce him into Akili’s habitat. Until a few days ago, the closest Josh and Akili interacted was watching each other from their respective enclosures. However, because of the severe thunderstorms of the past few nights, it has been necessary to bring each lion into interior rooms. This means that Josh and Akili were much closer than ever before—only two doors separated them.

“They were two doors away but they could definitely hear each other. I think Tuesday night was the first night that she started calling—doing the full roar—and he roared back! They were just calling in sync. That was the first time where I realized, okay, she’s finally ready. For me that was a pretty big landmark.”

-Scott Kayser, Zoo Manager of Predators

How Josh’s training is going

Josh, the new male lion at the Birmingham Zoo and his trainer, Claire Sinard.
Josh with his trainer, Claire Sinard, Animal Care Professional. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

When asked if there had been any obstacles to Josh’s transition to the Birmingham Zoo, Scott Kayser, Zoo Manager of Predators, said that they had encountered nothing out of the ordinary. He compared Josh’s move from San Antonio to how you or I might feel in a new city: unsettled and overwhelmed. Kayser, who is one of Josh’s trainers, said they are going at Josh’s pace as he gets used to his new surroundings.

“It’s about knowing the animal’s behavior, going at their pace and not trying to do too much too quick. We’ve found that [Josh] has been really resilient with all the changes so far.”

-Scott Kayser, Zoo Manager of Predators

Looking to the future

Josh, the new male lion at the Birmingham Zoo.
African male lions sleep from 15-22 hours a day, but if you’re lucky, you can catch the lions training every day with their trainers. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

The next step toward introducing Josh and Akili will occur through a mesh panel. The lions will be placed in two rooms separated by this mesh panel, which will allow them to fully see and smell each other without the risk of a fight. Once trainers are sure there is no risk of aggression, the door will be opened and they will be physically introduced.

“It’s exciting for us to get a new male here at the zoo. I’m thrilled to share him with everybody. Kwanza was such an icon and I’m ready for Birmingham to get to know Josh and have him be a part of the Birmingham Zoo family. I’ve been waiting for us to finally announce him because I want to share him with everybody.”

-Scott Kayser, Zoo Manager of Predators

Visit Josh at the Birmingham Zoo’s Trails of Africa habitat! The zoo is open 9AM-5PM Wednesday-Sunday and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

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Lily Plowden
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