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The three sisters have indeed grown strong and healthy, the only sad thing for me is that they will soon be transferred to a zoo in another province of Thailand, so a couple of weeks ago I had what will probably be my last up-close photo session with them, they were just a few days shy of five months old.
The main difference between this shoot and previous ones was, being that they've now grown too big to let them freely run around the grassy area adjacent to KKOZ's animal hospital, they're now being temporarily housed in a large enclosure before they travel on to their new home. So inside the Lion's den I went with my friend and their handler Khun Nok.
Yeah, yeah, I know, they still look like harmless pussy cats, but let me tell you, when you're lying on the ground trying to line up an eye-level shot of one or two of them, you can bet that the third sister is sneaking her way round the back of you aiming to pounce on what appears to be an easy target!
I've worked now with Lions cubs both in South Africa as well as over here in Thailand, and I've also be lucky enough to work with Siberian Tiger cubs at KKOZ too. Perhaps the most interesting thing I've discovered from these up-close opportunities with young “big cats” is how quickly their predatory senses develop; by the time they reach four months of age, although I'm sure they have no real concept of why they're doing it, they already seem to be practicing low, stealthy, purposeful movement toward anything that seems alive and is close to the ground. Within a month, given the chance, they'll attempt full runs at you and, unless you get straight up, they'll instinctively try to latch their teeth onto the back of your neck.
At that age, of course it's not really a scary experience, but I wouldn't be telling the whole truth if I didn't admit feeling on such occasions a quick, cold chill run down my spine, as it's so easy to imagine from this what little chance one would have with the same cat in the same situation once fully grown.
Needless to say, I have enormous respect for these and any animals that no matter whether they live captive lives or live free in their natural habitat, the fact remains that they will always be wild at heart and will always follow their hereditary nature.
Thanks for taking the time to read this for those of you that have :^)
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Growth & Development
by Ashley Vincent
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