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Hear the lions roar

Learn about the Seneca Park Zoo lions

The Seneca Park Zoo is a fan favorite in the Rochester area for a fun family day. Some of the most popular and beloved animals are the zoo’s three lions. Their names are Chester, Asha, and Zuri, and they are all thirteen years old. All three have been at the Seneca Park Zoo since they were about a year old. 

Their life at the zoo compared to wild lions in Africa is a bit different, as you could probably guess. The main difference is their exhibit or habitat at the zoo compared to their natural habitat. A lion’s natural habitat is the grasslands and plains of Africa. The zoo does recreate that to the best of its ability with a grassy exhibit and rocks to perch on. There’s also a simulated safari bus, and kids and families can go inside and take a peek at the animals through the windows. The lions like to rest on the hood of the bus, which makes for a perfect view and picture through the bus windows. There’s fencing lining the exhibit and glass windows to protect both the zoo visitors and the lions. 

Another difference is their diet. In nature, lions have to hunt and find their meals themselves, which include smaller animals such as gazelles. At the zoo, they’re fed by the people who work there with the animals—Kellie Wollowitz and Sue Rea are two of the amazing people who work at the zoo with these animals. At the zoo their main diet consists of ground horse meat, but they also will eat chicken or pork. 

The lions each have their own strong personalities. They’re each different but still get along well with each other. Zuri is really sweet. She loves people and interacting with them and loves training. 

“Chester’s like the typical male lion and just has to be in charge all the time,” Rea says. 

He likes to know where the female lions are, and he doesn’t really care to interact with the zoo staff if they don’t have food to give him. 

Asha is described as a “sour patch kid.” She’s sweet … then sour or spicy. When she likes you, though, you’ll know and she shows it, although she doesn’t like very many people. If she doesn’t want to do something, that’s it, she really doesn’t want to do it. 

The lions overall are like giant house cats. They do their own thing but can also be loving. 

When visiting the lions up close like Wollowitz and Rea do, strong disposable masks are to be worn around them as they are susceptible to COVID-19. This is not something you might think about when being around animals, especially big, strong lions.

A fun fact about the lions at the Seneca Park Zoo is that you can hear them roar from outside of the zoo. Chester’s roars can be heard in Irondequoit, and the zoo keeps track of how many local households can hear him. Rea says that her cousin lives on St. Paul Street and says she can hear the lions all the time. 

Some more fun facts about these three lions are that the females love to play with soccer balls around the exhibit. And when they’re supposed to be coming in from the zoo exhibit, they wait for Chester to go inside and then play, and they won’t play when he’s out. 

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