Two African Lion cubs were born, at Denver Zoo, on September 10 to lioness Neliah. The brother and sister are currently with their mother, behind the scenes, in the Zoo's Benson Predator Ridge exhibit. Zookeepers are monitoring the family via a closed circuit camera and giving them space during this critical bonding period. They will remain off exhibit during this time.
"This is the first time we've had lion cubs at Denver Zoo since 2006, and we are thrilled," says Denver Zoo Vice President of Animal Care Hollie Colahan.
The cubs were born in the early morning to parents Neliah and Sango, and, so far, mother and cubs are doing great. Zookeepers say they are precocious, moving around frequently, vocalizing and naturally competing when trying to nurse at the same time. Neliah, a first-time mother, has done a wonderful job. Keepers say she is very calm and attentive, regularly grooming the two and allowing them to nurse.
Neliah arrived from Florida's Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in November of last year. The 3-year-old joined the Zoo's young lion pride, with male Sango and female Sabi, both also 3-years-old. Neliah was born at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens on June 30, 2012 and arrived at Denver Zoo through a recommendation of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Sango, the Zoo's only adult male lion, was born on July 28, 2012 at Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin, Texas, and arrived at Denver Zoo in 2013. The cubs are his first offspring, as well.
African Lion cubs are born after a relatively short gestation period of between 100 and 110 days, and they come into the world with spotted coats and their eyes closed. Lionesses normally give birth to between two and four cubs. For the first two months, the cubs drink only their mother's milk and are fully weaned by the time they are seven months old.
The lion (Panthera leo) is one of the five big cats in the genus Panthera and a member of the family Felidae. The commonly used term African Lion collectively denotes the several subspecies found in Africa. With some males exceeding 550 lbs. (250 kg) in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger. The lion is currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List, having seen a major population decline in its African range of 30-50% per two decades during the second half of the 20th century.