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Music for the African Lions

Categories: Animals
Researcher and sound equipment
Sam setting up at the African lion exhibit

Over the next few weeks, you might hear music near the African lion exhibit at the zoo. Sam Counts, a veterinary student at UC Davis, is investigating the behavioral effects of the music on the lions. The music being played for the African lions has been specially composed for the hearing range of cats!

During the study, she will carefully watch the lions and their behaviors when music is played and will compare these behaviors to those observed when music is not played. Once this study is complete, she will hopefully be able to answer the question, “do the Sacramento Zoo’s lions like the music?”

Sam was inspired to pursue this project after listening to Music For Cats, a full-length album composed by David Teie, meant to be played by cat owners for their furry friends as a form of enrichment. The music is based on the theory of “species-specific music”, where an animal may be more likely to respond positively to music created with their ears and hearing capabilities in mind. Being a cat owner herself, Sam was intrigued, and wondered if large cats, like the Sacramento Zoo’s lions, would respond to the music.

Enrichment programs are designed to enhance the quality of an animal’s day by providing them with interesting activities, entertainment, and ways to engage in natural behaviors. They can include a variety of toys, food items, behavioral training sessions, interesting smells or scents, and even sounds, like music! The Sacramento Zoo has an extensive enrichment program for its animals, and is dedicated to learning more about how different enrichment methods affect animal behaviors.

When visiting the zoo, you might see Sam wearing sound-proof headphones while watching the African lions! Feel free to observe her collecting her data, but try not to distract her, as she does not want to miss anything that the lions do. The Sacramento Zoo participates in and is the site for many different research projects in the scientific community. Thanks to the work of dedicated volunteers and researchers like Sam, the Sacramento Zoo is able to provide cutting- edge enrichment and care to the animals that call the zoo home.