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Lion cubs nearing their first birthday

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

The lion cubs' first birthday is just weeks away, coming up November 8. The growing quadruplets have come a long way since their debut.

Remember when they took their first steps outside at just three months old? The foursome stuck close to mom and tentatively explored all the new sights and smells that surrounded them. Now at 11 months old, the cubs run this space with total confidence. (Love that there’s one staring off into space in both photos!)

Top: The lion cubs on their first day outside at 3 months old, photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo; Bottom: Now 11 months old, the lion cubs strut with confidence, photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

They are coming into the age now where they would begin to hunt. Those predatory behaviors we've watched them develop through play are starting to become more honed and skilled. Take a look at those no-joke claws.

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

It is easy to tell the two girl cubs, Nobuhle  and Busela, from their two brothers, Pelo and Rudo, now that the boys are beginning to grow shaggy, starter-manes. Think of a teenage mustache—it's a good start, but doesn't amount to much yet!

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

They'll keep growing their manes through the onset of puberty. It'll take about 5 years to grow in a full, lush mane like their father Hubert's.

Left: A young male cub; Right: Cubs' father, Hubert. Photos: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

One thing all the cubs have in common is a sense of adventure. We could tell from their earliest days that the foursome were a curious and athletic bunch. Sure they may spend most of their time snoozing like big cats always do. But when they do play, they play hard.

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

You might find the cubs taunting gravity with some high climbing acts.

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

It’s been fun watching them go from tentative, wobbly climbers to master balancers dashing across the log ramps in their exhibit.

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

There was a time, too, when we worried how they’d fare next to the watery moat. Now they maneuver around it with confidence.

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Before you lament how fast they've grown, look for those tell-tale baby spots on their fur, something they will grow out of eventually but will carry for some time longer. Those little spots will be our reminder of their tiniest days and how we've watched them become the stunning cats they are now.

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

For mom Adia, though, the four are still very much her babies. They might be maturing, but they haven’t outgrown her yet!

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

On their first birthday in November, we’ll give each cub a gift-wrapped box with a yummy treat hidden inside—something to nibble on besides each other.

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

As the cubs continue to grow, we’ll have to start making plans for where they will move onto eventually within the next year so that they can become part of the Species Survival Plan, a conservation breeding program for this species across accredited zoos. Though it will be hard to say goodbye down the road, what a treasure it has been to watch them grow. Our little ones will someday bring new cubs of their own into the world, and continue to inspire future generations to love nature and do something to protect it.

We leave you now with this photo of a pile of cubs from when they were three weeks old. Just because.

Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.


Unknown said…
Thanks for sharing your wonderful pics and info!
Janet said…
Wow, this is SO enjoyable! Beautiful animals; THANK YOU for all you do, WPZ. :)
Anonymous said…
They are so beautiful - I have total envy for Dennis Dow and his position as photographer at the zoo, I totally love his photos
Anonymous said…
Great update. Its kind of hard to grasp that the cubs are almost 1 year old. Keep up the good work WPZ!
Anonymous said…
They are amazing!! Woodland Park Zoo - you are doing wonderful work. Thank you for sharing!!
leslie said…
We love coming to the zoo with our kids and they still enjoy every moment of their days there at 17, 15, and 13!!!! Will never forget the first time we saw the babies at feeding time! We still talk about it. Thanks for the update!
Anonymous said…
Wonderful update. Just returned from L.A. where I went to the zoo with my granddaughter. Although nice, doesn't compare to the wonderful work that's been done with our own zoo. Thank you all for your continuing efforts to provide a natural environment for the animals.
shelly said…
We don't get to keep any of them? Not even one? :(
Tony said…
quite the family..great pics...thanks

It'll be hard to see them go, but by moving on, they'll have the chance to mature into breeding adults and each create their own families, which we don't have the room here to handle. The two girls will go together and the boys will go to different zoos.

This also means that Adia will have the potential to become a mom again to another litter in the future, so we may have more cubs to come if things go well!
Anonymous said…
Thanks for making my day....delightful photos....
Anonymous said…
What time on Nov 8th will you be giving them their birthday treats?
Anonymous said…
Really disappointed to see that one (and maybe more) have already left with no posts on your website or social media telling us to come say goodbye and send them off. Your members have been here to support you along the way and deserve to know when they are leaving.
We understand your disappointment, Anonymous. One male cub left a week ago. His move was a moving target with all of the weather issues impacting travel and traffic across the country this past month, so we lost out on the chance to prepare a communications message well in advance. But with the next two moves planned for February, we'll have the chance to give our friends and fans a heads up. Trying to organize all of that information for an update shortly. Thanks for your understanding!
Anonymous said…
I still find it hard to believe you couldn't find time to post a quick message to Facebook as soon as you found out... that doesn't require a bunch of editorial work. I don't believe you can up and decide to move a lion in just a few moments. I don't expect anyone to admit it, I believe your communications team was either not informed, forgot, or was specifically instructed not to post anything.