After a 110 day pregnancy, the Virginia Zoo welcomed four healthy little lion cubs this past Saturday. These pictures were taken on Monday at only two days old and keepers still do not know the sex of the kitten quadruplets.
Norfolk, VA – The Virginia Zoo is pleased to announce the healthy birth of four lion cubs on Saturday, May 2, 2009. This is the second litter for the Zoo’s lioness, Zola, and it’s her largest. “Zola is a great mom and gave birth to all four cubs without assistance,” reports Greg Bockheim, Zoo executive director. “She was monitored throughout the whole process via a video camera installed in her den, and keepers were prepared to step in if needed, but it wasn’t necessary.”
The first cub was born sometime around 8:00 in the morning, and Zola had the last cub by 12:30 Saturday afternoon. The cubs were born in special den prepared for Zola inside the lions’ night house. “Everyone is doing well,” says Greg. “Zola was a very young, first time mother in 2007, and we were all pleased and surprised to watch how well she bonded with the cubs and cared for them like a protective lioness should. We will give her any support she needs, but she already is proving to be a great mother once again. She is taking excellent care of the foursome – a daunting task for any young mom!”
Zola and the cubs will remain off public exhibit for several weeks to allow the cubs time to grow and bond with their mother. Zoo fans will be able to take a peek at the new family via the Zoo’s cub cam, which can be accessed from the homepage of the Zoo’s website –www.virginiazoo.org. Visitors to this site can not only take their turns controlling, zooming and panning on the viewing camera, but they can also download snap shots that they take of the cubs with CUB CAM.
Zoo staff has been eagerly waiting for the birth of these cubs, ever since the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) gave the Virginia Zoo the go-ahead to breed Zola and her mate, Mramba, again. “This is an exciting success for the Virginia Zoo and the AZA’s Species Survival Plan (SSP),” notes Bockheim. “The genetic pedigrees of our
lions make them an ideal breeding match, and their cubs will be valuable additions to other zoos’ lion exhibits and SSP programs.”
SSP animals are considered to be some of the most critically endangered species on the planet. Their wild and captive genetic populations are monitored and closely managed in captivity as in most cases the loss of one or the other population would clearly lead to extinction of the species. The AZA manages the animal collections of its member zoos and recommends placements to ensure the best care for the animals and to maintain a healthy and sustainable population that is genetically diverse and stable.
The gestation period of a lion is 110 days. Lions may have up to five cubs at a time, although litters of two or three cubs are more common.
On August 19, 2007, Zola gave birth to her first litter of cubs – a male and a female. This birth was the first large carnivore birth at the Zoo in 35 years. Those cubs, Granby and Neka, have been popular with Zoo visitors who have enjoyed the rare opportunity to watch young lions grow up. Each older cub has been assigned to a Zoo on the West Coast and will be relocated in the near future.