We can’t believe the time has already come to see our four young lions move on to the next stage of their lives. Born in November 2012, brothers Pelo and Rudo and sisters Busela and Nobuhle are now nearly the size of their mother, Adia. It’s hard not to think of them as our babies, but the foursome is maturing and getting closer to breeding age. This winter, each cub will be moving to a new home at an accredited zoo. This gives them the opportunity to pair up with new mates and eventually begin their own families through the Species Survival Plan conservation breeding program, while also making room for potential new cubs at Woodland Park Zoo.
|The male cubs began growing in their manes last summer. Photo: Dennis Dow/WPZ|
There are lots of comings and goings to keep track of as the pride reshapes over the next few weeks. Here’s what has been happening and what is coming up next:
|Inside the crate is young male lion, Pelo, being loaded onto a cargo plane. The move went smoothly under the supervision of staff from Woodland Park Zoo and Henry Vilas Zoo. Photo by Christine Anne/Woodland Park Zoo.|
Cubs on the movePelo was the first young lion to relocate. After the recent extreme weather across the country subsided, Pelo moved to his new home at Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin this month. To ease the transition, Pelo traveled with a Woodland Park Zoo keeper and staff from Henry Vilas Zoo who ensured his safe arrival. When Pelo touched down on Wisconsin ground, he showed us very positive signs that he is already adjusting. He cooperated when unloading from his travel crate and ate his food on the evening he arrived, a good indicator that he’s comfortable in his new home.
|The young lions have grown adventurous and independent. Photo: Dennis Dow/WPZ|
Adjusting to changeHow are mom Adia and the remaining cubs reacting to Pelo’s move? Zookeepers are pleased to see the lions are adjusting well. It’s typical for young male lions to begin to separate from the pride. We observed the lions searching around their exhibit when Pelo first left, which is normal behavior, but this only lasted for a few minutes. They have all remained calm through this experience.
|Photo: Dennis Dow/WPZ|
Last chance to see the cubs
If you want to squeeze in a visit to see the lions before the remaining youngsters leave, plan a trip this February. As moving large carnivores across the country is complex and requires extensive planning, we don’t yet have exact dates for when the others will move out to their new homes. It will be late-February/early-March that the other male, Rudo, heads off to El Paso Zoo in Texas, and the two sisters move to Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah.
|Lion pair Hubert and Kalisa will move together to L.A. Zoo. Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ.|
Changes with adult lion pairs
There are some changes coming for our adult lions too. The cubs’ father, Hubert, and his mate, Kalisa, will be heading to L.A. Zoo together. The bonded pair will be heading out on February 17. As Adia has proven to be an excellent mother, she’ll have the opportunity to breed with a new mate heading to Woodland Park Zoo from El Paso Zoo in March. This match allows us to mix up the genetic diversity of Adia’s offspring. We’re hoping to see sparks with the two, which may mean more cubs in the very near future!