Doctor Who and the Big Cats

Keepers at Santa Barbara Zoo clearly are sci-fi fans (and have a sense of humor).

TARDIS SIGHTING: Doctors are not unusual sights around zoos and animal parks. They're usually inside pens or nurseries, stethoscopes in hand, tending to the beasties. But a time-traveling Doctor, who arrives with his own spanning-the-centuries machine in tow, is another matter. Which is why the bright blue object that appeared near two female African Lions on Friday, Nov. 22 was so dang mysterious. Where did it come from? Was there someone inside? And do they make lion snacks in the shape of Sonic Screwdrivers?

WONDERFULLY TIMEY-WIMEY: Indeed, the keepers at the Santa Barbara Zoo created a temporary TARDIS to pay homage to Doctor Who's 50th anniversary. The sci-fi phenomenon marks the big moment with a special on Saturday, Nov. 23, and while the lions do not have a television -- as far as we know -- they will enjoy the TARDIS in their enclosure. Why? Well, the boxy structure, which was made with non-toxic paint, was created in part to serve as a Behavioral Enrichment Item. The zoo posted on Facebook that such items help "stimulate our lions by recreating naturalistic behaviors such as pouncing, jumping, and chewing." We've never met the Doctor, but we're guessing he'd be pretty tickled to learn that these beautiful cats are using the TARDIS as a giant scratch pole of sorts. In fact, could a whole adventure be built out of this germ of an idea? "Doctor Who" scribes, get typing.

NOTE THOUGH... that this TARDIS is but a brief bauble for the lions. Want to see it? Make for Santa Barbara as fast as a time machine through a fold in space and time.

CAN'T GO INTO THE FUTURE... like the Doctor can? Well, we can give you a peek at least. Some great haps are coming up at the Santa Barbara Zoo, like a Thanksgiving Day Pumpkin Smash and the annual Snow Leopard Festival.

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