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Lions on the move

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

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 move

Pelo 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 change

How 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!

Conservation in the field

These lions are ambassadors for their wild counterparts, helping zoo visitors connect with the challenges facing African lions and the ways we can help. Through the zoo’s Wildlife Survival Fund, Woodland Park Zoo supports the Ruaha Carnivore Project through the Lion Species Survival Plan Conservation Campaign. The project works in Tanzania to mitigate human conflict with lions and other large carnivores that share the Ruaha landscape, while collecting baseline data on lion populations to help shape lion and large carnivore conservation.


Anonymous said…
Won't Adia get lonely with her cubs and the other adults moving on?
Adia will have a new mate, a male from El Paso Zoo, arriving in March as the others leave. We're hoping they'll have success breeding and she'll have new cubs to mother in the near future. She's adjusting well to the first cub leaving and we expect her to continue to do well throughout the changes.
Anonymous said…
I have been watching and photo these 4 lion cubs and their mom since their first exhibit. I am surprised that the zoo did not mention Pelo's leaving until now. Otherwise, I would photo them all together the last time. I really feel sad to see they are going away even though that's for good causes. Was Pelo on the first photo above this blog?
We're deeply sorry that we weren't able to communicate with everyone in time for Pelo's move. Though the planning that goes into these moves is extensive, sometimes the actual transfer dates are moving targets as so many factors, including weather, are involved. When we finally locked in a move-out date for Pelo, we simply weren't nimble enough to get a story out in advance of it. That first photo is indeed one of the male cubs, though I can't tell if it is Rudo or Pelo. I'll see if I can get that confirmed for you.
- Rebecca
Anonymous said…
Thank you, Rebecca.
If I recalled correctly that this was the shaved mark on each cub:
Rudo (boy) - front right
Busela (girl) - back right
Pelo (boy) - front left
Nobuhle (girl) - back left

Did the zoo keeper keep the shaved mark on them when they grow older?
This is the link with photos of 3-month-old lion cubs. I thought the first photo might be Pelo. I remember it's a male lion. Now, they are leaving Woodland Park zoo, I better organize my other photos and post them soon.

Does the Woodland Park zoo have any plan to keep us posted how they are doing after all 4 cubs and Hubert + Kalisa are relocated? I really hope that we could hear about their lives from time to time.
Anonymous said…
Here is the photo link I was going to add on my previous comment posting.
Lovely photos. Thanks for sharing that link. The shave marks were kept up throughout their regular exams, but those tapered off after their first few months once their vaccinations were complete. From my notes, it does look like Pelo.

We'll see if we can get updates from the other zoos over time. We've been toying with the idea of doing a Where Are They Now update for other animals as well--it'll just take some time and coordination with our fellow zoos. In the meantime, you may want to go straight to the source and start following El Paso Zoo, Henry Vilas, LA Zoo, and Hogle Zoo for updates. You can look for them on Facebook or sign up for their e-newsletters.
Anonymous said…
The idea of "Where Are They Now" is great! I cannot wait to see the updates about them. Just out of curiosity, how did the zoo keeper move Pelo into the crate w/o being noticed by his mom and his siblings? Are they still sleep together these days behind the exhibit?
The keepers have been training each of the cubs on shifting separately behind the scenes and entering the crate. Adia is in another space when this happens. The cubs get fed once they go into the crate, which makes it a positive place to go into for them. It's amazing how much preparation the keepers must put into these moves.
Anonymous said…
I think it would be great for the "Where are they now"; I believe all kids big and small will enjoying seeing how our local babies are throughout the years
Anonymous said…
This is my number one pet peeve of WPZ. There is no one place where we can learn where all of WPZ's animals go so we can track their progress.
Anonymous said…
I know that they are leaving for good reasons, but I'll miss 'em