Mogo Wildlife Park has celebrated a roaring success with the introduction of its youngest cub, Maji, and her older, half-brother Phoenix.
The pair are the zoo’s story of heartbreak and survival with Maji the only one of her four siblings to survive, while Phoenix was born during the devastating Black Summer bushfires.
At 10 weeks old, Maji is the youngest of the two cubs, and is now a social media favourite, with strangers around the world keen to stay up-to-date with her life after she lost her mother, Zuri, and two siblings in December.
Maji – meaning water – also lost her sidekick and sister Moto – meaning fire – just one month later following a sudden seizure.
Mogo zookeeper Chad Staples has been hand-raising the surviving cub ever since and decided it was time for her to meet one of her other family members after a difficult start to life.
The pair share the same father, Baako, but have a different mother.
A video posted by Chad on Facebook shows him holding Maji in his arms while her older brother, Phoenix, walks along the fence, seeing and smelling his sister for the first time.
“It was a beautiful and positive experience,” says Chad. “Phoenix was very curious about Maji. He’s never seen a cub before but he certainly knew what she was.”
What can’t be seen or heard in the video was the cute cub hissing at her brother a couple of times, supposedly letting him know that he couldn’t push his little sister around easily.
“It was very adorable and she was just as fascinated by Phoenix as he was in her,” says Chad. “At no stage did she look to get away like she was scared. I thought their first meeting went really well.”
Lions naturally live in a pride and there is a chance that Maji and Phoenix could live together one day.
“It’s very important for lions to have a pride of some description,” says Chad. “A pride can be as small as a male and female, or a couple of males, but lions need to be with other lions. So we may place them together, but not until Maji is at least one year old.
Maji is still living at home with Chad as he continues to provide her with round-the-clock care. However, she is growing quickly, gaining around 150 grams per day as she transitions from drinking milk to eating meat.
While Chad says she’s a very sweet cat, he adds it’s important not to forget she’s still a growing lion.
“She has that fire within her and that can never be underestimated,” he says. “No matter how it appears in a photo or video, she’s not a pet and she’s not domesticated. She’s very much a lion, just she’s still very young.”
As Maji continues to grow she will be introduced to the other animals at the zoo, just like her brother was when he was younger.
“As part of her exercise, socialisation and development, we’ll go for walks before and after zoo closing so she can see what the rest of the zoo looks like,” says Chad.
The public will also have the chance to meet the zoo’s other characters, including Phoenix, Matilda the cute giraffe calf, rhinos, monkeys, pandas and penguins during the second annual community day on Saturday, 27 February, between 9 am and 4 pm.
The community day marks the one year anniversary from when the zoo reopened after the Black Summer bushfires, and as a way of showing thanks for the community’s support, tickets are reduced to $10 for a day’s entry.
You can buy tickets online here.