Lions and otters and giraffes…oh my!

Three African lions, a reticulated giraffe and an African spotted neck otter are the latest additions to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

The zoo’s baby boom began on July 4th with the arrival of the spotted neck otter pup. These otters from the shores of Lakes Tanganyika and Victoria in Central and Southern Africa are known for the cream coloured markings on their throat and chest.


Recently it went on exhibit with its seven year old mother, Makena. It spent the first two to three months of its life in a den. Over time its mother will teach it to fish and swim.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo is one of only two American institutions which bred spot neck otters this year. 22 African spotted neck otters live within eight institutions which are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).


A female reticulated giraffe calf was born into the zoo’s family on November 4. She was one big baby coming in at 138lb (62.5kg) and standing 72in (182.8cm) tall.

The calf’s 15 year old mother, Dottie is very protective. Currently the pair of them are separated from the rest of the herd and are living indoors at the zoo’s giraffe complex. Slowly the calf will be introduced to the rest of the herd with whom she will probably live for the rest of her life.


Currently 256 giraffes live at 76 AZA accredited institutions. 21 giraffe have been born in these zoos over the past 12 months.

Guests have the opportunity to name the calf until December 2 at The calves name will be announced on December 10 online.


Most recently born at the zoo were three lion cubs. The most exciting part of this litter was that one kitten was a white lion. These lions are caused by a very rare recessive gene which causes decreased pigmentation. These lions were originally found in the Timbavati area of Krueger National Park in South Africa. The zoo’s genetics department does not fully understand how the inheritance pattern for this coat works.

The cubs have gone on exhibit with their mother, Ahadi and their aunt, Mfisha at the Henry Doorly Zoo’s Cat Complex. So far Ahadi is providing good maternal care and all the cubs appear healthy.


When they are born lion cubs are blind. It takes one to two weeks for their eyes to open. While three cubs, two males and a female were born this time round litters of up to five are possible.

A 15 year old male known as Mr Big, one of two living at the zoo is the father of the cubs. The breeding of these cubs was part of a recommendation by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) run by the AZA’s Felid Taxon Advisory Group. This aims to breed pure krugeri subspecies lions. So far the program has seen 43 African lion births in the past 12 months.


Lions are classed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Their population has declined from 30% to 50% over the past 20 years throughout Sub Saharan Africa.

Photo Credits: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

By Cale Russell is a testament to Cale’s commitment to the education of people around the world on the topic of animals and conservation, through the sharing of topical and newsworthy information.

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