Lions Eat a Chicago Bear at Detroit Zoo (and No One Got Hurt!)

Zookeepers get psyched for annual rivalry football game in unusual way.

It was the lions vs. a Chicago Bear at the Detroit Zoo today, and the lions came out on top.

As part of a daily enrichment program at the Detroit Zoo, and to celebrate the Detroit Lions (4-0) hosting a regular-season Monday Night Football game for the first time in a decade, zoo officials introduced a meat-filled piñata to the lions today.  The piñata was shaped like a Chicago Bears (2-2) football player and placed on the grounds of the lions exhibit.

More than 50 people gathered to watch as the lions entered the exhibit and slowly paced around the piñata. A lioness was the first to pick up the scent.  As she moved quickly to the piñata, a male lion was close behind.  The female slowly paced around the piñata. She backed away when the male lion moved in, his curiosity picqued. 

Soon both became distracted and paced around the exhibit. Eventually the female lion moved in and attacked her prey by biting off its arm. The crowd let out loud “oohs and ahs” as she lay down in front of her fans to eat her breakfast.

Aiden Billiu, 4, of St. Clair Shores, shouted out a loud, “He’s so big!” as a male lion paced along the glass in front of him.  Aiden and his mom, Elizabeth Billiu, were excited to see the lions and piñata at the zoo. 

“We introduce new items and elements to all the animals at the zoo on a daily basis as part of our environmental enrichment program," animal welfare manager Elizabeth Arbaugh said. "Sometimes it can take hours for the animals to react.”   

Based upon the species, and the particular animal, zookeepers use the program to document and analyze how an animal reacts to determine what the zoo can do in the future to further enrich the animal’s life. 

“We don’t always use food. The key is to keep it unpredictable, like nature itself,” Arbaugh said.

Game On!

To make things fun, Detroit Zoo Executive Director Ron Kagan and Kevin Bell, president and CEO of the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, have made a wager: If the Detroit Lions win the game Monday, Bell will send an enrichment element for the lions at the Detroit Zoo. If the Chicago Bears win, Kagan will send an enrichment element to Lincoln Park Zoo for the bears.  “It’s something fun that we are all excited to be a part of," Detroit Zoo communications director Patricia Janeway said.

The Detroit Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In an actual match-up in the wild between a lion and a bear, which would win?

The question is moot as lions live in Africa and bears do not, according to a Detroit Zoological Society press release, but the zoo chiefs weighed in hypothetically.

"The bear would have the advantage of size and strength which it could use to overpower the lion," Bell said.

"The lion would have the advantage of speed and could easily outpace the bear," Kagan countered.

The answer – like the outcome of Monday's football game – is anyone's guess.

Jarrod Dambro October 05, 2011 at 08:25 PM
Love it!!
Carrie Burgan October 09, 2011 at 04:32 PM
Good-natured rivalry with a positive outcome for all involved. Nice to see! :)
michael J October 10, 2011 at 12:43 PM
The ZOO didn't want to have their wolverine knock over a Sparty? Sounds like common sense to me. Knock nock who's there, Sparty, ohhhhhh nooooo ooone is hoooome.


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