On the day in question, each of the three big cats had been given a large hunk of meat to chew on. Ena ate hers for a while, then began to stalk her offspring – either for fun or to get their food, too, I’m not really sure.
There have been countless new and beautiful babies born in and around the Zoo since then – and in other Zoos and locations, too. But, to my mind, the most beautiful of all were born last of all when Ena, another first-time mom, gave birth on May 18, 2017 during a month-long strike at the Toronto Zoo.
The first time I ever saw Kenora I don’t recall any special feelings towards it. Well, as I discovered on my next trip to Kenora 33 years later, the problem was that we approached it from the wrong direction: from the east.
Cheetahs have a gestation period of 90-95 days; the earliest Laini could have cleared quarantine was January 22nd; and on April 30th, she presented her delighted Keepers with five tiny, adorable floofballs, just 98 days after she was introduced to her potential baby daddies.
“…it was quite obvious [the cubs] all adored their “Auntie Lemon.” Unable to have any offspring herself, Lemon took to this role wholeheartedly: with patience, attentiveness, discipline when needed, and an abundance of love. When the cubs were active, Auntie Lemon was most often their first choice of playmate, plaything, or playground.
The very first glimpse I got of the babies was actually a fluke. The brand-new Wildlife Health Centre was being prepared to be open to the public on the Canada Day weekend last summer, and before that happened there were preview days – first for Staff and Volunteers, then two days for Members leading into the weekend.
The two young cats were born at the Nashville Zoo in 2013 – Mingma in February and Pavarti in April – and arrived in Toronto as a “breeding pair” in the late Winter or early Spring of 2014. They took quite a while to get used to their new digs – and, oddly, to each other even though it was thought they were already bonded when they arrived.