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Healthy Lion Cubs Born at the Columbus Zoo

On September 22nd the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed three big and healthy African lion cubs. These two little girls and one boy were bred as part of the AZA's Species Survival Plan for African lions. Over the past twenty years African lion populations have fallen 50% due to human population growth into their native habitat.

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Photo credits: Grahm Jones / Columbus Zoo

Three African lion cubs (two females and one male) were born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on September 22, 2009.  The first arrived about 1:30 PM, the second a half-hour later, and the third cub was born about 8:30 PM. Lion cubs have not been born at the Columbus Zoo since 1985. As of the end of October, the male cub weighed in at nearly 16 pounds and the two females are at 14.25 and 13.65 pounds respectively. Asali is taking good care of her cubs and the family is doing very well.

These cubs are the first for mother Asali and father Tomo. 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.

Asali is caring for her babies in a secluded den where they will remain for the next few months and perhaps longer due to cold winter weather. The Zoo will announce viewing information when it becomes available.