Three new lion cubs have become the ‘ pride ’ and joy of Woodland Park Zoo. The cubs were born on October 24 to mum Adia and dad Xerxes. This is Adia’s second litter after she had four cubs with a different male. Xerxes has never had any cubs before.
The cubs were separated from mum soon after birth in an off-view maternity den. Here keepers quickly did a health check and found that they are males. Afterwards mom was let in so the cubs can bond with her in a comfortable and quiet area. Xerxes will remain separated like he would in the wild.
Martin Ramirez the zoo’s mammal curator says that this bonding has progressed well and that all the cubs are suckling milk. Keepers will continue round-the-clock monitoring of the cubs to make sure they stay healthy. Ramirez said, “Animal management staff are closely monitoring the litter via an internal cam to ensure the mom is providing good maternal care and the cubs are properly nursing. The mom and cubs will remain off public view until they are a bit older and demonstrate solid mobility skills. In addition, outdoor temperatures need to be a minimum of 50 degrees.”
For the cubs the critical period was the first 48 hours and animal care staff monitored them for signs of normal behaviour and this will continue in the coming weeks.
The cubs were about 3 pounds at birth. They are blind and won’t first see till one to two weeks after birth. Vets will continue performing check-ups every few weeks to assess weight and provide vaccinations.
The zoo participates in a species survival plan (SSP) for African lions. Under this it was recommended that Xerxes move from El Paso Zoo to be paired with Adia this year. The SSP are a complex system that looks at the genetic diversity and demographic stability of animals to see who they should be paired with. The behaviour and personality of the animals also has to be considered.
“The birth of the lions is very exciting for all of us, especially for Xerxes who was not represented in the gene pool for the lion Species Survival Plan (SSP) conservation breeding program,” added Ramirez.
As the only big cat species not granted protection under the Endangered species act it is still legal to hunt lions. As such their future is uncertain with only 32,000 remaining.
Photo Credits: Adult Lions- Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo
Lion cubs – Dr. Darin Collins