Iowa’s Blank Park Zoo recently announced that their Lioness, Neema, had successfully given birth to three cubs! Two females and one male were born on November 14.
The cubs have been spending time bonding with mom. At their first physical on November 20th, they individually weighed 1.46 kg, 1.37 kg and 1.2 kg.
“Neema has been a very attentive and protective mother to the cubs,” said Dr. June Olds, chief veterinary programs officer. “We suspect the cubs were a bit underweight at their first physical because it was a large litter.”
Staff has been supplementing the feeding of the smallest cub, the male, because he is currently a week behind in growth compared to the other cubs, and his condition is considered guarded. “We are going to continue to evaluate his milestones and supplement him as needed. I am very impressed that ‘Neema’ has been allowing us to do that,” said Olds.
Two other cubs, born four hours after the initial three, failed to thrive and unfortunately did not survive.
Blank Park Zoo staff never goes directly into areas with dangerous animals such as Lions. For the keepers to attend to the cubs and perform exams, Neema had to ‘shift’ to another room.
Blank Park Zoo’s male lion, Deuce, arrived at the zoo in 2012. Neema and another female, Kadi, arrived at the zoo’s Tom and Jo Ghrist Great Cats Complex in June of this year from the Santa Barbara Zoo. The Lions are part of the Species Survival Plan. Deuce and Neema were given a breeding recommendation by the SSP.
“As we see populations of Lions declining in their natural habitats, these cubs will play an important role in saving Lions for the future,” said Mark Vukovich, CEO. “The population of Lions has decreased by more than 40 percent in the past 20 years.”
The cubs and Neema are still spending quality time together and are not currently available to be seen by visitors. Before visitors will be allowed to see them, the cubs must go through a series of vaccinations, which will take a few months. Blank Park Zoo will be setting up some remote viewing options for visitors in the coming weeks.
Zoo officials will be releasing plans for naming the cubs in the coming days, as well.
Blank Park Zoo will be giving a donation to the *Ruaha Carnivore Project in honor of the cubs. A portion of every dollar spent at Blank Park Zoo is used to help save animals in their natural habitats.
The African Lion (Panthera leo) is native to savannas and semi-arid regions of east and South Africa. It is a carnivorous animal and the diet in its natural habitat includes Buffalo, Zebra, Antelope, Giraffe and more. At Blank Park Zoo, they eat up to eight pounds of beef a day. Lions are the only social cat and live in groups called prides. Males are larger, have big manes for protection, while females are smaller, faster and excellent hunters. Unlike Tigers, Lions conserve energy and will sleep/rest up to 20 hours a day.
The IUCN lists the African Lion as ‘Vulnerable’ and populations are declining. Threats include loss of habitat because of human encroachment and poaching. Wild lions have seen a 42% decrease in the last 21 years, with approximately 20,000 – 30,000 remaining in natural areas and are regionally extinct in seven African countries.
Blank Park Zoo supports the *Ruaha Carnivore Project which helps decrease Lion/human conflict. The organization works with communities to build livestock enclosures and helps raise livestock guarding dogs that live alongside and bond with livestock, fiercely protecting them from carnivores. This protects the carnivores from retaliation from farmers. They also are researching Lions to create more effective conservation efforts. Finally, they work with Massai tribes to host competitive sporting events for coming-of-age ceremonies that replace traditional Lion hunts.