Valentine's Date Night: Behind the Scenes with the Lions

There’s a new boy in town – and he’s wooed the biggest lady in the Zoo!

Asiatic lions Sahee and Sonika have hit it off since Sahee’s arrival last year, and now they’re inseparable.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, keeper Becky Scott chatted to us about their whirlwind romance and filled us in on the gossip behind the scenes.

The Dating Profiles

  • Sonika: laid-back but clever, knows what she wants and how to get it. Age: 3.5.
  • Sahee: boy next door, cute, curious, dopey. Age: 3.5.

First Flirtations

Sahee came from France and joined Sonika at Bristol Zoo Gardens in August last year. He was shy at first, and the keepers initially kept the pair apart. When it was time to bring them together, tensions were running high… but Sonika rolled straight onto her back! After this submissive and flirty behaviour, it looked likely that the pair would mix and bond safely.

Caught on Camera

When Sonika and Sahee were first brought together they preferred coming out at night time. Keepers set up cameras to keep an eye on the pair, and sure enough the footage revealed playful head rubbing and more positive behaviours!

Playing Hard to Get

The lions show their affection in lots of different ways. They rub heads together, touch noses, and sniff each other’s bottoms – just like dogs! But it’s not always plain sailing as Sonika likes to play hard to get. She sometimes nips Sahee on the bum and runs away, encouraging him to chase her! 

The Purr-fect Gift

To keep the lions active and entertained, keepers provide enrichment such as toys and activities. One of Sonika’s absolute favourites is perfume sprayed onto the trees. Her natural instinct is to rub against the tree and mark her territory by covering up the perfume scent with her own. We think we know what Sahee might get her for Valentine’s Day…Chanel No. 5, anyone?

Dinner Date

The Valentine’s meal in our lion exhibit won’t be an entirely conventional date. In the wild, lions don’t eat every day and the male gets the lion’s share. But Sonika doesn’t play by the rules and will try to steal Sahee’s food! So to prevent a scrap, keepers separate the two at feeding time. 

Fancy feeding them yourselves? Our lion experience lets you get up close to these fearsome felines! 

Pay the lions a visit this Valentine’s Day – find out more with a talk at 11am, and then head off on our brand new Conservation Heroes sticker trail!

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