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Columbus Zoo Lion Cubs Are a Pawful

The Columbus Zoo's little lion cubs are growing up fast and treat mom like a jungle gym. Now ready for their public debut, we strongly recommend you make the trip to watch them romp. African lion populations have decreased by a staggering 50% over the last two decades due to human encroachment. Earlier photos available here.

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Photo credits: Grahm Jones / Columbus Zoo

More pictures and info after the jump.

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The three lion cubs born on September 22 are now ready for their public debut and will be provided access to the outdoor habitat daily weather permitting. What time they will go out each day and how long they will stay out will depend upon the weather and the animals. (Note: the Zoo is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.)

The three cubs have been named:

·       Kitambi – Named by the animal care staff, he is the only male and the largest of the trio. His name means “pride” in Swahili and it was chosen to reflect his take charge personality. ·       Adia – Named by the high bidder at the Wine for Wildlife conservation fundraiser held at the Zoo in October, her name means “gift” in Swahili. ·       Mekita – Mekita’s name is derived from the first letters of the three daughters of this Zoo donor who also won the right to name the cub at Wine for Wildlife.  

These cubs are the first for mother Asali and father Tomo and the first born at the Columbus Zoo in 24 years. The pairing of Asali and Tomo was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) for African lions. The AZA, of which the Columbus Zoo is an accredited member, strives to maintain a sustainable population of lions in North America. 

Currently there are 349 African lions in 98 institutions in North America. Of those 349 animals only 176 are “pedigreed” meaning lions with known ancestry. The Columbus Zoo lions are one of only 31 pairs of pedigreed lions recommended for breeding by the SSP to maintain genetic diversity.

Once common in Africa, lions recently became a global issue when scientific evidence revealed that lion populations had plummeted by a staggering 50% over the past two decades. Lions are threatened by human population growth and agricultural expansion–which leads to increasing levels of conflict between people and lions. 

Through its Conservation Fund, the Columbus Zoo is supporting the work of Shivani Bhalla, a Kenyan Ph.D. student at the University of Oxford. Shivani and her team fit radio-collars on lions in northern Kenya to gather behavioral information critical to formulating a conservation plan. The goal is to encourage a more harmonious co-existence between wildlife and people by reducing the loss of livestock caused by lion attacks and reducing the number of lions killed in the conflicts.