Our two lionesses are celebrating their birthday, so we sat down with one of their amazing keepers, Petra, to learn a little bit more about these two gorgeous big cats.

What is your role and how long you have been at Perth Zoo?

I am a “technical officer” which is a  fancy way of saying zoo keeper! It means I play with the animals all day and get paid for it. No, seriously, its hard work. I care for the animals, making sure they have a clean place to live and fresh food. I have been here 20 years, isn’t that a scary thought?

What was your first impression of Makeba and Uzuri?

I thought they were beautiful. I didn’t get to work with them for a little while as I was working with other animals but I thought they were gorgeous.

Image of Perth Zoo keeper Petra

How close are Makeba and Uzuri?

Very. These girls have been together all their lives. After making the journey from NSW, I was told that there was obvious relief when they were released from their individual travel crates in Perth and saw each other again. But they have yet to meet boys, that could be a game-changer and shake-up the sisterhood.

How easy is it to tell the girls apart?

Once you know what to look for, its actually really easy. But even experienced keepers need a few extra seconds to tell who’s who.

Physically, what are the differences between the girls (what can visitors look for)?

Look for the small notches in the right ear. If you can see them, that’s Makeba. You may also notice that Makeeba is lighter in colour and has a longer face. Uzuri’s face is rounder and she’s more golden in colour.

How much do each of the girls weigh?

Keeba is the heavy weight. She’s about 128kg. Uzuri is a lighter girl, she’s about 117kg.

In terms of behaviour, what is the biggest difference between the girls?

Its not so easy for the public to tell but we see the biggest difference at feeding time, Makeeba likes to tell us to hurry up. She rumbles and growls and carries on. Uzuri is just as impatient but she’s quieter about it. She’s more active about it, running back and forth and looking impatient.

Who is the most curious one?

Hard to say. I think Uzuri. She seems more animated. Makeeba is a calmer animal.

Why are our lionesses at Perth Zoo so important?

The number of wild lions is decreasing at an alarming rate. Their numbers have gone down from 450,000 in the 1950s to a tiny 20,000 in 2020.  That’s a huge decrease. It’s all due to our impact on this planet, that we don’t share very well. Our girls (and hopefully their cubs - stay tuned!!) are ambassadors for their wild cousins, helping educate people about their plight, about unethical animal experiences as well as day to day decisions that we make. It’s all about choice and the animals on this earth rely on us to make the right ones.

Image of a female lion