Zoo celebrates Ira’s third birthday

Ira%27s+trainer%2C+Erin+Dinkins%2C+smiles+at+Ira+on+the+afternoon+of+his+birthday%2C+Feb.+4%2C+2017.%0A%0APhoto+credit%3A+Jesse+Watrous
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Zoo celebrates Ira’s third birthday

Ira's trainer, Erin Dinkins, smiles at Ira on the afternoon of his birthday, Feb. 4, 2017.

Photo credit: Jesse Watrous

Ira's trainer, Erin Dinkins, smiles at Ira on the afternoon of his birthday, Feb. 4, 2017. Photo credit: Jesse Watrous

©Jesse Watrous

Ira's trainer, Erin Dinkins, smiles at Ira on the afternoon of his birthday, Feb. 4, 2017. Photo credit: Jesse Watrous

©Jesse Watrous

©Jesse Watrous

Ira's trainer, Erin Dinkins, smiles at Ira on the afternoon of his birthday, Feb. 4, 2017. Photo credit: Jesse Watrous

By Mary Altshuller

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A birthday party was held for Ira the Lion at Moorpark College’s America’s Teaching Zoo on Saturday, Feb. 4. It was a sunny afternoon with a lot of people turning out to see Ira rip into his presents and the huge birthday cake made out of pigeon feathers, ground beef, and chicken necks.

“It’s great,” said Zach Finley, 35. “We live in the neighborhood, but we come every few months or so.”

Children were very excited for the cake and crown event, as they got to color and wear their own crowns. Ira wasn’t the only exotic animal that was being shown. There were birds, monkeys, alligators, and a tarantula that was kept in a small glass box handled by zoo keepers. Many of the attendees, especially children, enjoyed seeing the animals.

Ira is now 380 pounds, compared to last year when he was 320 pounds. He also lost his Mohawk he had last year. Today he has a full mane according to the teaching zoo’s Mara Rodriguez, Instructional Tech.

“He mainly eats raw meat – tendons, muscles, bones, pigeons, and bunnies,” said Erin Denkins, 25, one of Ira’s zookeepers. “But the animals are not alive.”

The weather was perfect for the event as it was partly cloudy, but the sun came out just around the time Ira clawed into his presents. Ira made a few attendees jump in surprise at the sudden attack at his presents.

“Training sessions take about two years to properly work an animal,” said Denkins. “They learn to move to a stump when we point to the stump and we reinforce this.”

A large scratching post from floor to ceiling sat in one corner of his play arena. The top portion had old donated fire hoses nailed to it.

“If it was just carpeting and rope like on traditional scratching posts,” said Denkins, “It wouldn’t last very long.”

The teaching zoo has him on loan for educational purposes. He came from the Lion Habitat Ranch, located in Henderson, Nev.

Chuck Brinkman, one of the academic counselors of Moorpark College, was enjoying himself as he snapped pictures of Ira.

“I work here on campus,” Brinkman said. “My favorite animal is probably Clarence, the Galapagos Tortoise.”

The cake that was presented to the attendees was also a crowd pleaser. People were having fun watching the animals as they enjoyed a vanilla-flavored cake.

Adam Tindall contributed to this report.

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