It's now Lucas and Jasmine
Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer
Jasmine the lioness is now a welcome addition to the Hope Zoo following her arrival in the island last Thursday. The three-year-old was quiet after her three-day journey from the Monterey Zoo in California. Crouched on her hind legs, Jasmine waited patiently before she made her way out of the holding area to greet the many persons who came out to see her in her new home, including her soon-to-be companion Lucas.
During the waiting period, an agitated Lucas paced along the perimeter fence in his den, anxiously awaiting Jasmine's entrance into the neighbouring den. Both played hide-and-seek, occasionally letting out growls and yelps, at times baring full sets of teeth. After a dubious but unrelenting wait the powerful cats settled to low growls and side glances.
According to Charlie Sammut, animal trainer and owner of the Monterey Zoo, it took just under a year to have the necessary permits, testings, training, modification of the enclosure, etc, completed for Jasmine's arrival in Jamaica.
"Jasmine had to be trained to travel. She had to become acclimatised to her crate and we did that for 30 days. She also had to become accustomed to having her meals in the crate as well," Sammut said.
"Jasmine also had to undergo the necessary medical screenings to ensure that there is no disease transmission between both countries. All her tests had to be negative or she would not be allowed to travel here," Sammut added. For the most part, Sammut said, Jasmine travelled well. However, the group, including veterinarian Jim Hay, will remain in the island for another few days to ensure Jasmine continues her adaptation process smoothly.
Those on hand to assist the team, led by Sammut, also included Dr Gavin Bellamy from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Dr Pamela Lawson, managing director of the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Sammut, described by many as a modern-day Noah, also donated Lucas from the Monterey Zoo in California to the Hope Zoo. Since then, the search has been on in earnest to find him a mate who is of a similar age and can hold her own. To date, Lucas has not been socialised with a lioness.
Jasmine was located in a sanctuary in Colorado and stayed at Sammut's zoo while the necessary preparations were completed to have her relocated here.
According to Orlando Robinson, curator at the Hope Zoo, working with animals takes time and patience, therefore, Jasmine will be given all the time she needs to adjust. "Animals are adaptable, so it is a necessary process. Hope Zoo will be her home for the rest of her life, so it is important for us to exercise patience with her," Robinson said.
However, Lucas and Jasmine will not be den mates any time soon, as each will spend several months apart before any attempt will be made to pair them.