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The pride of the zoo: three lions born

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

The vets got a first look at the cubs on Friday. Photo by Dr. Darin Collins. 

The pride of Woodland Park Zoo just got a little bigger!

Three African lions were born yesterday on Oct. 24. The cubs represent the first litter between the mother, 5-year-old Adia, and 7-year-old father, Xerxes. This is the first offspring for the father. The last birth of lions was in 2012 when Adia gave birth to four cubs with a different male.

A screen capture from an internal cam shows Adia with one of her cubs. 

Zookeepers moved the cubs into the off-view maternity den where the new family can bond in comfortable, quiet surroundings. Before reuniting the cubs with mom, the zoo's veterinary team did a quick health assessment of the cubs and determined that all three are males. The father remains separated from the cubs and mother.

Zookeepers are monitoring the new family round-the-clock. The mother and cubs are bonding and nursing, according to Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo.

The three boys photographed during their quick health assessment. Photo by Dr. Darin Collins.

A screen capture from the internal cam shows three lion cubs in a behind-the-scenes den.

The first 48 hours are critical, and animal care staff will be monitoring each of the cubs closely for signs of normal behavior and development over the next several weeks. “Animal management staff is closely monitoring the litter via an internal keeper 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,” said Ramirez.

A cub in the behind-the-scenes den.

“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,” said Ramirez.”

Lion cubs typically weigh about 3 pounds at birth. They are born blind and open their eyes within a week or two after birth. As part of the exemplary animal care and health program for the zoo’s thousand-plus animals, zoo veterinarians will perform health check-ups every couple of weeks for weight monitoring, vaccinations, and critical blood and fecal sampling.

Xerxes arrived in the spring from El Paso Zoo to be paired with Adia under a breeding recommendation by the SSP for African lions. Adia arrived in 2010 from Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, in Ohio. An SSP is a complex system that matches animals in North American zoos based on genetic diversity and demographic stability. Pairings also take into consideration the behavior and personality of the animals.

The three cubs in their den.

Xerxes and Adia, photographed together in June 2014. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo’s lions belong to the South African subspecies, Panthera leo krugeri. Known as the Transvaal lion, it ranges in Southern Sahara to South Africa, excluding the Congo rain forest belt, in grassy plains, savanna and open woodlands. These lions range in weight from 260 to 400 pounds.

The African lion is the only big cat not protected under the Endangered Species Act. As few as 32,000 African lions are estimated to remain in the wild and their future remains uncertain, particularly as the growth in human population continues to impact lion populations. There is legal hunting of lions and retaliation killing because they pose a threat to humans and livestock.

A lion in the Ruaha landscape in Tanzania. Photo courtesy of Ruaha Carnivore Project.

Through the zoo’s Wildlife Survival Fund, Woodland Park Zoo supports the Ruaha Carnivore Project focused on mitigating conflict between predators and people. To help support the project, become a ZooParent and adopt a lion. Your adoption supports the care of the animals at the zoo, and $5 from each adoption goes directly to the zoo's conservation efforts.


Michelle said…
I think these little guys will be just as handsome as their father!
Anonymous said…
lovely babies!
Leah said…
Congratulations Woodland Park Zoo!! More good work on behalf of these magnificent creatures lies ahead!
Anonymous said…
Congratulations! Dad sure is handsome!
Anonymous said…
Woodland Park Zoo does wonderful work. At the end of the day, zoos such as WPZ will be the repository for many species of animals who will have gone extinct in the wild.
Anonymous said…
What's the sex of these three new born?
Anonymous said…
Where can we get updates on those four lions (Adia's first litter in 2012)? I missed them. Also, not seeing any updates on those 3 Jaguars born in 2013 (or 2012) at this zoo? I miss them!
Adia's previous cubs have grown up and moved on to new zoo homes where they will one day start families of their own. The two females went to Hogle Zoo, and we chronicled their journey here on the blog. The boys went to El Paso Zoo and Henry Vilas Zoo. You can look for updates on the lions from each of those zoos, and catch up on past stories here: The two jaguar female cubs are still here at Woodland Park Zoo. Now that they are older and independent, they spend time on their own as jaguars are naturally solo animals. Their brother moved to another zoo this past summer. The girls will move on to other zoo homes eventually, which will bring us back to just the adult pair of jaguars here at the zoo. While we haven't done in depth blog features on the jaguars lately, we frequently share photos on Facebook and Instagram. Look for us on those channels!
Anonymous said…
Thank you for the information. Which zoo did the jaguar boy move to? By the way, this Blog site is the only place I pay attention about the animals cared by this zoo. Not everyone is the fan of Facebook or Instagram.
Anonymous said…
I read every Blog posted on this site, so I was aware where those 4 cubs went. I thought Woodland Park zoo was planning to track their life after been re-located. I checked the web sites on El Paso Zoo and Henry Vilas Zoo, they did mention a word about the male lions moved from Woodland Park zoo at Seattle. Not even a picture. :-(
Anonymous said…
Thanks to the people behind the scenes to help this miracle along such as zoo keepers, HVAC, maintance workers, etc. Anonymous
Anonymous said…
As a resident of El Paso and a frequent visitor of the zoo I can provide with some info:

El Paso zoo has three lionesses currently in the main exhibit, two are Xerses' half sisters and one is his full bloodied sisters. A couple of months ago I spoke to the lion keeper, and she told me that Rudo, the lion the zoo has received in the spring, is still much smaller in size than the three females and will have to "pack some weight" before being displayed in the the exhibit together with the three, fully grown, females. However, Rudo and the lionesses are able to see each other from separate holding areas "behind the scenes", and everything seems to work well. She said they are trying to figure out what's the best way to introduce Rudo to the pack.

She also said the zoo is planning for Rudo to spend some time in the main exhibit by himself in November so keep visiting the El Paso Zoo website and they may post some photos. We have had the lion for months in El Paso and I have never seen him either, so I'm also curious to see him.

I'm glad Xerses is doing so well. We miss him in El Paso.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for the update about Rudo. Cannot wait to see Rudo would have his first litter. It's kind of sad to see Xerses has to be alone by himself now due to the birth of new cubs.
Anonymous said…
It appears from one of the photos that the lion cubs have teeth at birth. Is this true? If so, isn't that hard on the mother during nursing?
They'll start to grow in their milk teeth in the first few weeks. Permanent teeth won't come in until much later in their development.