The Sacramento Zoo was excited to announce the birth of three African Lion cubs on October 24th! The cubs are now four weeks old. They have learned to walk and are beginning to play with one another, and their first-time mother is continuing to do a fantastic job caring for her cubs.
“So far, we are pleased with the progress of the female and her cubs. Females would naturally take some ‘maternity leave’ from the rest of the pride for the first 4-8 weeks,” said Dr. Adrian Fowler, Acting Director of the Sacramento Zoo. “Our own female will be off-exhibit for a while to allow her the same kind of mother-cub bonding. If all goes well, we are hopeful that the cubs will be ready to explore their exhibit in the weeks running up to Christmas.”
A female lion’s gestation is 3 ½ months with a litter typically ranging from two to four cubs. They are born with eyes closed and rely entirely on their mother for the first few months. Mother and cubs will be inside the den, away from public view, while the babies gain strength and coordination.
Lions usually spend 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping and resting, devoting the remaining hours to hunting, courting and protecting their territory. They protect their territory and keep in contact with one another by roaring loud enough to be heard up to five miles away. African Lions are excellent hunters. Although they are mostly nocturnal, they are opportunistic and will hunt anytime, day or night. Females do 85 to 90 percent of the pride’s hunting, while the males patrol the territory and protect the pride.
Lions are classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List, but they are considered regionally endangered in West Africa, where an estimated 42% of major lion populations are declining. Their habitats are now only in game reserves in Eastern and Southern Africa. Loss of genetic diversity from inbreeding, fragmentation, diseases and habitat loss are all problems that continue to threaten this species. Diseases from domestic cats and dogs have also made an impact on wild populations.
The Sacramento Zoo participates in the Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP). The Lion SSP works with captive populations to increase awareness of the problems that face this big cat.