Zookeeper raising orphaned lion cub at home with kids
Like a lot of little girls, Maji shares a special bond with her father.
But this "daddy's little girl" is an orphaned lion cub and her "father" is zookeeper Chad Staples.
"Every where I go, she goes," Mr Staples said.
The den daddy is hand raising Maji at his Sydney home - with his partner and four children under 12 - after the eight-week-old cub lost both her mother and sister in the space of four weeks.
Like a kitten, Maji lives at home on the couch, is fed six bottles of milk a day and loves the odd sharp-clawed cuddle.
"She'll wake up and when she realises we are close she'll wander over and do a little head smooch which is her way of saying hello," Mr Staples said.
"She gets a lot out of that touch and so do I."
Maji loves to play with her toy giraffe, gnawing at its neck before giving up and falling asleep after her big afternoon meal.
And just like a pet dog or cat, Mr Staples has to keep a keen eye on the curious cub.
"If she finds something to chew, she'll chew it," he said.
"But it's beautiful to watch, it really shows that she's thinking and looking at her environment and trying to work with it."
Mr Staples, who is the director of Featherdale Wildlife Park in Western Sydney and Mogo Wildlife Park on the south coast, said Maji had become just like a member of the family.
"They are very social cats, lions live in a pride, they have a family group and they get a lot from touch and from being with each other," he said.
Maji was one of two healthy cubs born on December 8 at Mogo Wildlife Park. Their mother, lioness Zuri, suffered significant internal injuries while giving birth to the third cub which didn't survive. She died three days later.
Mr Staples found comfort in caring for the two adorable cubs - Maji and her sister Moto - who would not have survived in the wild without their mum.
Heartbreakingly, Moto died four weeks later after a dramatic seizure in Mr Staples' arms.
"[Losing Zuri] was incredibly difficult. We'd gone through the absolute joy of Zuri starting to give birth and then just taking a very drastic turn … it's like losing a family member, it's unbelievably gut wrenching," Mr Staples said, adding the hardest part was telling his children about her death.
"It was the hardest phone call I've ever had to make … they cried like it was someone in the family, because they are a family member."
When Moto died, Mr Staples had the traumatic ordeal of trying to resuscitate the tiny lion to no avail, the zookeeper thankful his children weren't home to witness the tragedy.
From loss came motivation, and Mr Staples threw himself into raising Maji, including waking up every two hours to feed the cub.
"It's all encompassing, there isn't a moment where they aren't in your thoughts … there's not a lot of time to look at anything else and they feel incredibly vulnerable," he said.
"The most important thing is that Maji grows up to be a healthy lioness … right now I'm trying to provide all the needs as her mum would - that's shelter, food and love.
"I didn't expect how much I was going to fall in love with her. She's become my everything."
Originally published as Zookeeper raising orphaned lion cub at home with kids