For her fifth birthday, Mila Chandler wanted to visit the Oklahoma City Zoo. It’s fitting for a girl who loves animals and keeps an impressive toy collection.
Her mom let her take one into the zoo on Saturday, not knowing it would lead to such an incredible moment with Moto the lion.
“Mila walks up and the lion just completely ditched what was going on and just started pawing at the glass, trying to get her stuffed Simba,” Leslie Chandler told News 9.
“It was fun because she played with me,” Mila added.
The video has gotten a lot of attention on social media - from those who think it's heartwarming and those who don't.
“I feel like if they had been there, they would’ve understood it was not mean,” Chandler explained. “She was not trying to tease the animal or taunt it in any way. She wasn’t being mean. She just had her toy with her. She just needed her little stuffed animal to get through the morning. And this just happened.”
Director of Animal Collections, Kevin Drees said the 3-year-old lion is playful and wanted to engage at the glass.
“Moto had control of the situation. She could leave at any time, so it really doesn’t fall in the taunting category for me,” Drees said.
Drees doubts it recognized the resemblance in the toy.
“There’s no movement involved. There’s no smell involved,” he explained. “I think we have often times made papier-mâché items and we hide treats inside of them and so if anything, it might be, here’s a novel thing, I wonder what’s inside.”
Whatever sparked the encounter left Mila and her family with a memorable experience.
“It was just absolutely amazing,” Chandler said.
Moto is set to be the basis of the zoo's African Lion breeding program.