Dallas Zoo is pleased to share that their three lion cubs made their first public appearance this morning! The girls, Ilola and Tadala were the first to take the big step out into the habitat. Izwi (male) hung back and observed for a few minutes before following suite. There was plenty of running, jumping, chasing, wresting, tail-biting, and of course, cuteness, as they explored and greeted their adoring fans. The cubs will continue spending time in the habitat and will be out for Zoo guests to see for a few hours each day between bottle
The Dallas Zoo is celebrating the birth of three adorable African lion cubs – one male and two females – born on August 17 to Bahati and Kijani. This is the first time since 1974 that the Zoo has welcomed a litter of multiple lion cubs.
The Zoo’s carnivore zoologists researched names for each cub that perfectly match their personalities and unique circumstances. The first cub, a male, will be called Izwi (IS-we), which means “vocal” in the Shona language of Zimbabwe. Izwi came into this world with a strong personality and a lot to say! The second cub, a female, has been named Ilola (ee-LOH-la), meaning “to become strong” in the Sesotho language of South Africa. Ilola has overcome significant challenges to become strong, including weeks of physical therapy to correct developmental issues in her legs. Bahati’s third cub, also female, will be called Tadala (ta-DAH-la), which means “we have been blessed” in the southeast-African Chewa language. During Bahati’s initial ultrasounds, it was clear that two cubs were developing. During the birth, the Zoo was thrilled to find three cubs instead.
“We are overjoyed to see Bahati, who was our first lion cub in 43 years, become a mother and play a crucial role in protecting her species from extinction,” said Gregg Hudson, the Dallas Zoo’s President & CEO. “These three cubs are the embodiment of resiliency, strength, and hope, which we hope can be a bright spot in our community right now.”
The Zoo’s three-year-old female lion, Bahati, delivered the three cubs via Caesarian section. Bahati was closely monitored as she went into labor, and the Zoo’s veterinary staff made the critical decision to intervene after natural labor failed to progress in a timely manner and created an unsafe situation for the cubs.
“The cubs were not positioned correctly in Bahati’s birth canal, meaning that a natural birth would likely have had a negative impact on her health as well as the cubs’,” said Harrison Edell, the Zoo’s Executive Vice President of Animal Care and Conservation. “Thanks to our veterinarians’ thorough preparation and decisive decision-making from our animal management team, all three cubs arrived without incident and are able to thrive under the close watch of our team and, of course, mom Bahati.”
Bahati remains behind the scenes with her cubs as she recovers from the C-section surgery. She exhibited curiosity early on, and even while she was resting in a different area than the cubs, she positioned herself so she could see them. The Zoo’s veterinary staff monitored and hand fed all three cubs until Bahati was ready for a reintroduction to her little ones. Bahati’s aunt, Jasiri, joined mother and cubs, modeling appropriate behaviors for Bahati and taking an active social role, just as lions would in a wild pride.
Even still, the challenges were far from over for Ilola, one of the female cubs who was born weighing less than her siblings and who had some developmental challenges.
“Developmentally, this cub found it difficult to walk, and she also had trouble maintaining her glucose level, which is vital to support healthy growth,” said Edell. “Our expert veterinary staff kept a watchful eye on her and immediately devised a plan, beginning physical therapy to help her walk correctly.”
Ilola responded well to the initial physical therapy and has made amazing strides to correct her gait. At this point, all three cubs are eating well, gaining weight, and spending time with mom.
Bahati and her cubs will remain behind the scenes in their den for another 4-6 weeks before making their official public debut. The cubs will be gradually introduced to the rest of the pride, including their grandmother Lina, as well as their father Kijani. The Zoo will share updates and the date of the cubs’ debut on its social media channels.
Three-year-old Kijani came to the Dallas Zoo in March of 2020 to breed with Bahati on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP aims to maintain a sustainable and healthy lion population, ensuring genetic diversity of animals in AZA institutions. The pair bonded quickly and soon began exhibiting breeding behaviors. Zoo staff suspected the pregnancy in April, which was later confirmed by ultrasound in June.
African lions are native to Sub-Saharan Africa, where they roam the savanna and open grasslands. Their numbers have dwindled by 50% in the last 25 years, and the species faces ongoing threats from poaching, habitat loss, and human-wildlife conflict. The Dallas Zoo is proud to support a healthy African lion population in human care through our work with the AZA’s Lion Species Survival Plan as a safeguard against extinction. These animals serve as critical ambassadors for their wild counterparts.
Woburn Safari Park announced the arrival of two African Lion cubs, which were born to parents Zuri and Joco in late July. The cubs spend most of their time in the den with their mother but are expected to move into the Lion exhibit later this month.
Photo Credit: Woburn Safari Park
Keepers have already spotted the youngsters playing with each other and with their mom’s tail and they are looking stronger on their legs every day. Born weighing just over two pounds each, the cubs will begin to be weaned from their mother onto meat at around 10-12 weeks old and will be fully weaned by the time they are 6-8 months old.
Lioness Zuri, 5, is extremely protective of her new young, and naturally can become aggressive if disturbed. Keepers prepared for the birth by creating a secluded den in one compartment of the Lion house for Zuri and her cubs, so they can enjoy bonding in a quiet, private area. In the wild, a Lioness will give birth and keep her cubs in a den of thick dense cover, like acacia bushes, so keepers have tried to replicate this environment as much as possible.
Keepers are feeding Zuri five days out of every seven, monitoring how much she eats each day to decide when she is fed. Normally the Lions are fed large meals every four days to mimic wild hunting patterns, including feast days and fast periods.
Craig Lancaster, Team Leader for Carnivores at Woburn Safari Park, said, “It’s hugely exciting to have new Lion cubs at the Park and we are so pleased that they seem to be settling in so well. They aren’t crying a lot and are already looking chunky and healthy, which indicates that they are feeding well and are content in their surroundings.
“The public will be able to view the cubs in the side pen after all their vaccinations are up to date in late September. We will ensure the vets are happy with their progress before they are moved into the main Lion enclosure later on in the year.”
Once ranging across most of Africa, the Middle East, and southwestern Asia, Lions have suffered drastic population declines in the past 50 years. Most of the 20,000-50,000 Lions remaining in Africa reside in protected areas such as parks and reserves. Tourism, and the revenue it creates, is a strong incentive for Lion conservation. These majestic Cats are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
There’s a lot to roar about this summer at Denver Zoo with the arrival of an African Lion cub. The cub, whose sex has yet to be determined, was born on July 25 to mom Neliah, 7, and dad Tobias, 3. Animal care staff say mom and cub are both healthy and active, and bonding behind the scenes. Although the cub won’t make his or her public debut until later this summer, zoo guests can still catch a glimpse of Neliah and her cub on TV screens near the exhibit.
Photo Credit: Denver Zoo
“This is Neliah’s second time around as a mom, so we were confident she’d show all the correct behaviors with her new cub,” said Assistant Curator of Predators Matt Lenyo. “She immediately started grooming and nursing the cub, which is exactly what we hoped she would do.”
Half of Africa’s Lions have disappeared in the past 25 years and the species faces growing threats from poaching, loss of prey, and habitat destruction. The cub’s birth is a huge success for the Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy, genetically diverse populations of Lions within Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions. The SSP recommended Tobias move to Denver in 2018 as a potential mate for Neliah and her daughter, Kamara.
“Tobias hasn’t fathered any cubs previously, which makes his genetics important to the AZA Lion population,” said Colahan. “The fact that he’s already successfully mated with one of our females speaks to the work our Lion team put in to make Tobias feel comfortable in his new home in such a short period of time.”
Neliah and the cub will stay behind the scenes for at least one to two months to give them time to bond and gradually introduce the cub to the rest of the pride. They'll primarily stay in their den box, which the animal care team provides to mimic the space Neliah would seek out to give birth in the wild. Neliah will still have access to other holding areas behind the scenes, but the addition of the den box provides a sense of security for mom and cub.
ZooParc de Beauval is home to 10,000 animals, including 600 different species. The Zoo is also the largest zoological maternity hospital in France, with about 750 births each year.
This past summer has been no different for the successful facility. On July 29, three energetic Lion cubs were born to mom, Malawi.
The Zoo recently announced that the bouncy cubs were given names. The two males have been named Kivu and Issa, and their sister has been named Sabi.
Photo Credits: ZooParc de Beauval
The Lion (Panthera leo) is native to grasslands and savannas of Sub-Saharan Africa. The species has been classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List since 1996 because populations in African countries have declined by about 43% since the early 1990s. Although the cause of the decline is not fully known, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are the greatest causes for concern.
The Virginia Zoo’s new African Lion cub needs a name, and the Zoo is asking for your help! By submitting and voting on potential names, you’ll also be helping to save Lions in their native Africa.
The naming contest began Monday, December 11 at 9 am and will conclude on Friday, December 22 at Noon. Participants can submit a name to the contest by paying $1. Each subsequent vote for a name is $1. The name with the most votes wins and will be announced on Christmas morning.
The Virginia Zoo will donate 100-percent of the naming contest proceeds to the Pride Lion Conservation Alliance (pridelionalliance.org), which leads efforts in four key Lion ranges, researching and protecting 20-percent of Africa’s existing wild Lion population.
“Now is your chance to name the cub and help to secure a future for all Lions!” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo.
The male cub was born on October 28 to experienced mom, Zola, and dad, Mramba. The cub weighed just three pounds-five ounces at birth and was an immediate joy to all his keepers.
The cub now weighs approximately 12 pounds. According to keepers, he climbs in and out of his nest box, chases mom’s tail, and has been exploring his enclosure.
“The birth of any animal is always exciting,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “The birth of this Lion cub specifically is a significant contribution to its genetic population and also provides a fun educational opportunity to our community.”
Thirteen-year-old Zola gave birth in her indoor den in the Zoo’s Africa-Okavango Delta exhibit. According to keepers, she immediately displayed natural instincts of nursing and grooming the cub. Routine physical exams will be performed as the cub grows, and he will receive vaccinations to strengthen his immune system before going out on exhibit.
The Pueblo Zoo recently announced the arrival of three “precocious, bundles of joy”. African Lioness, Mashavu, gave birth to the two females and one male on October 25. The trio was sired by Taz Jahari (father of Pueblo Zoo’s ‘Mumford’).
The cubs have been under the watch and care of their mother. At their first checkup, in November, the male and two females weighed 9.5 lbs., 9.3 lbs., and 7.9 pounds, respectively.
Photo Credits: Ashley Bowen
The Zoo is excited to be able to share video and photos of the cubs as they grow and will be posting regular updates to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Once they are vaccinated and ready to brave the outdoors, the cubs will be given access (weather permitting) to the outdoor Lion enclosure in late December.
Iowa’s Blank Park Zoo recently announced that their Lioness, Neema, had successfully given birth to three cubs! Two females and one male were born on November 14.
The cubs have been spending time bonding with mom. At their first physical on November 20th, they individually weighed 1.46 kg, 1.37 kg and 1.2 kg.
“Neema has been a very attentive and protective mother to the cubs,” said Dr. June Olds, chief veterinary programs officer. “We suspect the cubs were a bit underweight at their first physical because it was a large litter.”
Staff has been supplementing the feeding of the smallest cub, the male, because he is currently a week behind in growth compared to the other cubs, and his condition is considered guarded. “We are going to continue to evaluate his milestones and supplement him as needed. I am very impressed that ‘Neema’ has been allowing us to do that,” said Olds.
Two other cubs, born four hours after the initial three, failed to thrive and unfortunately did not survive.
Photo Credits: Blank Park Zoo
Blank Park Zoo staff never goes directly into areas with dangerous animals such as Lions. For the keepers to attend to the cubs and perform exams, Neema had to ‘shift’ to another room.
Blank Park Zoo’s male lion, Deuce, arrived at the zoo in 2012. Neema and another female, Kadi, arrived at the zoo’s Tom and Jo Ghrist Great Cats Complex in June of this year from the Santa Barbara Zoo. The Lions are part of the Species Survival Plan. Deuce and Neema were given a breeding recommendation by the SSP.
“As we see populations of Lions declining in their natural habitats, these cubs will play an important role in saving Lions for the future,” said Mark Vukovich, CEO. “The population of Lions has decreased by more than 40 percent in the past 20 years.”
The cubs and Neema are still spending quality time together and are not currently available to be seen by visitors. Before visitors will be allowed to see them, the cubs must go through a series of vaccinations, which will take a few months. Blank Park Zoo will be setting up some remote viewing options for visitors in the coming weeks.
Zoo officials will be releasing plans for naming the cubs in the coming days, as well.
Blank Park Zoo will be giving a donation to the *Ruaha Carnivore Project in honor of the cubs. A portion of every dollar spent at Blank Park Zoo is used to help save animals in their natural habitats.
Idaho Falls Zoo is thrilled to announce the extraordinary birth of a male African Lion cub! The cub was born February 17 to first-time parents, Kimani and Dahoma.
“Unfortunately, shortly after his birth, the cub had to be removed from his mom to be treated for a medical issue. We are pleased to report that he has completely recovered and is almost ready to be returned to his mother,” states Zoo Veterinarian, Dr. Rhonda Aliah.
Because of the advanced age of the parents and the unique genetics of the couple, this adorable little guy is extremely important to the captive African Lion population in North American zoos. Although reintroducing this genetically valuable cub to his parents is essential for his development, the process is not simple or straightforward.
To lessen any risk, the cub will be returned to his mother when he is bigger and more mobile. The AZA and other zoo professionals explored all possible options for the cub. “Everyone agreed that the only option available was to keep the cub at the Idaho Falls Zoo and eventually reintroduce him to his parents,” states Aliah.
When the time comes for the cub to re-join his family, a Lion manager from the Denver Zoo, who has experience with conducting these types of reintroductions and who serves as an advisor to the AZA’s Lion SSP, will be onsite during the reintroduction. The Lion manager will help interpret behaviors and guide zoo staff during what will be a very stressful and potentially dangerous, yet important, time in the cub’s life.
In the meantime, the cub needs to be socialized. Lions are the most social of the big cat species, and sociability is incredibly important for behavioral and psychological reasons. Young cubs rely on other members of their pride to teach them how to be adults. A cub that has been away from his parents is at risk for not being easily accepted back into the pride and could be injured or killed when reintroduced.
So, how do you keep a Lion cub social without being around other Lions? ...meet Justice, another new member of the zoo family.
Photo Credits: Idaho Falls Zoo (Images 1 & 4) / City of Idaho Falls News (Images 2,3,5)
Justice is a not a lion, but a Great Pyrenees with wonderful mothering instincts. Two-year-old Justice is a rescue dog that has had at least one litter of puppies. When rescued, representatives with the Humane Society of the Upper Valley found her alone caring for her puppies, as well as a weak sheep. Her puppies have all been rehomed, and now Justice has a new role: nursemaid to a rambunctious two-month old African Lion cub!
Zoo Curator, Darrell Markum, explains, “An important aspect of animal development, particularly with baby carnivores, is having an adult animal teach ‘animal etiquette.’ This includes not biting other animals hard enough to injure them and not using your claws to climb on your elders. Justice is a very patient teacher.”
Given the unique situation, the use of domestic dogs to raise young carnivores is an accepted practice in modern zoos.