Aromatherapy Makes Lion Act Like A 'Big Kitten'

Throw a little kitty some catnip, and it’ll be mesmerized for hours. Throw a very big kitty some hay with peppermint and lavender in a sack, and something similar happens.Zookeepers at Devon, England’s Paington Zoo have discovered that the behavior of lions in captivity there is changing due to the exposure to some sweet-smelling fragrances.

Lavender and peppermint induce a state of relaxation and calmness in humans, but for a female Asiatic lion named Indu, it got her stirring. “She was excited and stimulated by the unusual fragrance,” zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling tells us in an email. “She played like a great big kitten!”

Indu, who was born at Paignton Zoo back in 2003, was given the burlap bouquet as part of a new enrichment program, which aims to encourage mental and physical stimulation for animals in captivity, since they are not required to hunt or search for food in their enclosures.

All this nosiness began when food store Holland & Barrett read about the positive effects different scents had on animals and agreed to donate a consignment of oils to the park. And, for the last two weeks, the trainers noticed how smitten the big cats are with their lavender satchels — rubbing it in their faces, licking it and showing lots of excitement for their new toys.

Because of the sniffing frenzy, the exposure to the aromas have extended beyond the lion’s den. Monkeys there will soon get a chance to broaden their experimental palette with new smells like lavender and tea tree oil.And some of the animals will even be able to eat what they’re sniffing. Thanks to a large donation from Holland & Barrett, the meerkats and primates will receive popcorn as treats.

“The popcorn is good for them to eat, and because it looks, feels and smells unusual, it is good enrichment for them,” senior keeper Andrew Fry says. “It is very entertaining for visitors to watch them as they discover new things.”



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