Male lion makes debut at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Meet AbutoHis name is Abuto, hear him roar.

He is a 1-and half-year-old African lion and the newest member of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo big cat family. He joins four other lions at the zoo and can be found in the new Encounter Africa lion building, located around the corner from the giraffe building.

“We are beyond excited about Abuto,” said Tracy Thessing, director of animal  collections at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. “It is great to have a male lion at the zoo again. You can see that he is young, so he will be a highlight of our African lion pride for years to come.”

The 350-pound lion came from Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Ariz. with the intention of breeding with two of the zoo’s 5-year-old female lions, Lomela and Zwena. His move is part of the cooperative breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. He spent the last few months in quarantine getting comfortable with his keepers while the new lion building was being finished.

“In the short time he’s been here, Abuto has developed a good rapport with his keepers,” said Thessing. “He really enjoys enrichment items, toys and training time. He is a very confident, playful and curious lion.”

In 2012, the zoo met its fundraising goal of $13.5 million for its biggest capital improvement project in the zoo’s history — the Encounter Africa exhibit.

The entire project is expected to be finished this year.

Encounter Africa includes a new plaza area featuring a traditional African tent for educational programs and events, four full-size African elephant sculptures and an amphitheater that will allow guests to see elephant training, enrichment and husbandry. The project also will include mud wallows and a shallow pool for the endangered black rhinoceros and a new exhibit for the African lions featuring upper and lower viewing areas and heated rocks.

The exhibits will be designed so visitors can have a closer look at the animals.