The first animal I said hello to yesterday was Kesi-Akua the one year old Black Rhino who was munching on some green grass and listening to me talk to her. Kesi means “born during the time of fathers difficulties” and Akua means born on a Wednesday. Black Rhinos, have one of my favorite features which is also shared by another species of rhino, the Greater One-Horned Asian Rhino, which is a prehensile lip. This is a finger like feature of their upper lip which is used for grabbing food such as leaves and it really is the most adorable feature on them. Yesterday I was so lucky to been able to meet all three of the Pittsburgh Zoo’s Black Rhinos. I first was introduced to the male and dad of Kesi-Akua, Jomo Kenyatta (Jomo) who is 22 years old and named after the former President of Kenya. Jomo loves belly rubs and lots of attention. If you have never touched a rhino, they are pretty rough except between the folds of skin where it is very soft. I got give him lots of pets, belly rubs and scratches behind his soft little ear.

Kesi-Akua, the one year old Black Rhino calf at the Pittsburgh Zoo snacking on some green grass.

Then the door to the yard opened slightly and I then got to meet Azizi who is roughly 18 years old and the mom to Kesi-Akua who just turned one year old. Azizi was loving some scratches on her sweet face then heard some visitors nearby and rushed over to check that out and make sure everything was okay. Then there it was, the cutest little baby rhino face with that tiny prehensile lip just hoping to grab a treat. Like I mentioned earlier, I talk to animals so I told her how her lip is my most favorite feature, that she is the cutest baby and that it was nice to meet her.

(Insert washing of hands to remove baby black rhino slobber).

In past visits to the Pittsburgh Zoo I always heard one of the male African Lions roar and it can be heard from any spot in the zoo (even the restrooms). During my visit there was no roaring as both males were pretty relaxed and watching visitors pass by. However, yesterday I learned of a story which I was happy to learn that I could share and made me love the African Lions there and animals much more.

For roughly five years, zoo staff has been treating Razi for epilepsy who is the only lion in the United States known to have seizures. He is currently on anti-seizure medicine which like in humans can be harmful to their liver and it also doesn’t prevent them from happening. As soon as Kathy Suthard, who is lion keeper there told me of his seizures, all I could think about was my dad having them and the struggle that doctors had to get them under control and therefore I guess I felt an instant connection to this lion and sympathy for him.

Razi soaking up the warmth of the sun and watching visitors.

My heart was aching for him but then she told me the part of this story that really brought me closer to understanding animals a little more.  His brother Ajani will rush over to his side any time he starts to have a seizure and will not leave his brother until it is over. I held back these tears just knowing he has a loving brother who watches over him. I am confident that zoo staff would not allow him to suffer, so at any point that this would not be ethical, the staff would make and have made the proper decisions which are in his best interest.

I think we can all learn from these African Lion brothers. Watch out for one another especially when we need it the most. Be kind to each other, smile while passing even strangers, say hello and if you see someone in need help them. It will make the world a better place.

Ajani, enjoying the sun and between naps.

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