For the first time in the 33 year history of Zoo Miami, the birth of Lions is being celebrated! On Tuesday, September 24th, “Kashifa’” a 3 year, 8 month old Lioness gave birth to three cubs in a special den off exhibit. Until today, the cubs were being observed in that den via a closed circuit camera which indicated that the newborns are being well cared for by the first time mother. This morning, zoo staff was successful in shifting the mother, which allowed the separation of the cubs and subsequent safe access for their neonatal examination. The examination enabled staff to determine the sex of the cubs as well as obtain weights while carefully evaluating their overall condition. In addition, they received microchips for identification. The two males and single female appeared to be in excellent health weighing between 1.63kg and 1.75kg and will remain off exhibit with their mother for approximately 3 months until zoo staff feels confident that the cubs can be introduced to the rest of the pride and safely navigate the exhibit with the adults.
Kashifa is one of four Lions that form the pride at Zoo Miami. She shares the exhibit with her sister, Asha, and two unrelated brothers, Jabari and Kwame. Both females were born at the Bronx Zoo in New York in January of 2010 and the males were born at the Racine Zoo in Wisconsin in September of 2007. It is not known for sure which if the two brothers is the father of the cubs as both males had equal access to the females.
These cubs were born as part of a carefully planned breeding that was the result of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommendation. Species Survival Plans are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) mission to cooperatively manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered species populations in accredited institutions.
See more photos of the cubs below the fold...
Lions are considered vulnerable and have suffered significant population declines over the last several decades with only an estimated 32,000 individuals remaining in the wild, down from over 100,000 living 50 years ago. They are the only truly social cats living in prides that can number over 20 individuals. Males can exceed 400 pounds and develop their classic mane between 4 and 7 years of age. In the wild, the average lifespan of Lions is approximately 12-15 years but in captivity they can live over 20 years.