Bill the lion needs no introduction. His laid-back attitude and stunning physique make him a crowd favorite. Thanks to his penchant for resting on the exhibit window, he’s in thousands of family photos. Could he be any more of a superstar?
“I think Bill just enjoys being awesome,” says zoo keeper Jennifer McDermott.
Bill was only two years old with a scruffy little mane when he debuted at the African Journey’s grand opening in 2009. As he prepares to celebrate his 7th birthday on July 22, he has matured into a beautiful 435-pound adult male lion.
But amid all the hype, Bill has a few bad habits. According to McDermott, “Bill is the pickiest eater I’ve ever seen.”
Because lions eat only one thing – meat – this can be a problem. The zoo buys a frozen prepared meat diet (similar to a tube of ground beef) by the ton. When a new batch of meat arrives, keepers know that Bill will snub his finicky nose at it, at least for the first few days.
“He makes what I call a ‘yuck’ face, like a little kid,” says McDermott. “He’ll scrunch up his eyes, stick out his tongue, and walk away from his food.” In lion-speak, this apparently means “I don’t wanna eat this, and you can’t make me!”
McDermott doesn’t worry about Bill’s diva-like attitude regarding his dinner. “He eventually eats it,” she says.
Unlike Bill, Ina the lioness is very interested in her food. When McDermott calls the cats to dinner at the end of the day, Ina makes a beeline for the meat placed in their night quarters. Bill, on the other hand, takes his sweet time. “We just wait him out,” says McDermott. When he does decide to come inside, “He walks very slowly,” she says.
Bad habits aside, McDermott is in awe of Bill. “I love looking into his eyes,” she says. “He’s just beautiful.”
Click the photos below to enlarge.