Help name the Seneca Park Zoo’s new lions

How close can you get to a lion? Pretty close in the new exhibit at the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY!

My husband and I visited the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY a few weeks ago to see the new Step Into Africa exhibit. Everyone has been talking about it.

I love the zoo. Over the last decade or so, the Seneca Park Zoo has really made some fabulous changes. I’m a huge fan of the otters, and I could spend hours watching them frolic and slide and swim. I especially love the Rocky Coast exhibit, with the wonderful polar bear habitat and the sea lion pools. What a change from the zoo of my childhood! 

The Rocky Coast exhibit lets you see the polar bears above and under the water.

Now they’ve added a huge exhibit dedicated to Africa, with a new elephant habitat, three lions, olive baboons and an example of a Maasai hut and how the Maasai people live, along with a double decker tour bus viewing station.

I confess: something seems a little strange to me about creating a zoo exhibit that also includes an exhibit about people. I mean, the polar bear exhibit doesn’t have an igloo or exhibits about Eskimos. But the African exhibit has a grass hut and learning station about how the Maasai people live and care for their goats.

These are people living in a poverty stricken part of the world, where food and water are often at a premium, and they’re being featured in an exhibit that surrounds one of the zoo cafes. It just seems a little at odds to me. 

But I digress, because this is a zoo and this is about animals and let’s just say … wow! The changes at the zoo that allow the animals to live more naturally while allowing visitors to interact are amazing. You can get so close to the lions it’s crazy! 

Up close and personal with the King of the Jungle.

The exhibit features a cave with windows that let you see through a few inches of glass. What a fascinating opportunity to see the King of the Jungle up close and personal!

And now the zoo is asking you to help name the lions. The contest runs through August 31. The zoo is looking for names that not only reflect the country where the lions call home but also their distinct personalities.

Names may be submitted via e-mail to until 5 p.m. on August 31, 2012. Please include your name, contact information and reason for choosing your names. You can learn more on the zoo website.

Zero the polar bear. His mate Aurora prefers solitude. Let's hope it's because she's expecting!

And if you’re interested, the Seneca Park Zoo is currently on the radar of every zoo in the world, because this spring they performed what they hope is the first successful artificial insemination of a polar bear in captivity. Because there’s not a pregnancy test for a polar bear, zoo officials are monitoring Aurora’s behavior (hoping for some nesting activity!) and in November hope that there will be cubs. Stay tuned!

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