Hilvarenbeek, July 27, 2023 - Four healthy African lion cubs were born at Beekse Bergen Safari Park. The young animals were born during the night from Tuesday, July 11, to Wednesday, July 12. This is the first litter of lions in six years.
The gestation period of a lion lasts approximately three and a half months, and a litter can consist of one to six cubs. Mariska Vermij - van Dijk, the carnivore caretaker, said, "The mother gave birth to five cubs. Unfortunately, the fifth cub did not survive. This happens quite often: the lioness has four teats, and as soon as the cubs are born, the competition for the teats begins. Sometimes the fifth cub survives, but it is likely to lag behind in growth and eventually not make it. It's sad, but that's just how it goes. We are very happy that the four cubs are doing great!"
Lion cubs are born blind, and their eyes typically open around ten days after birth. At three weeks old, they start walking more steadily and begin to explore the world around them. "Around that time, they also receive their first medical check-up, and we can determine the gender of the young animals," said Vermij - van Dijk. When the cubs are about one year old, most of the spots on their fur disappear, and in male lions, their manes become more visible.
The status of lions in the wild is 'vulnerable.' This means that if these animals are not adequately protected, they are likely to become extinct in the future. In Africa, their natural habitat is shrinking, leading to lions being increasingly spotted in villages, with all the associated consequences. Poaching and diseases among the animals are other common threats.
The park in Hilvarenbeek, together with other European zoos, is committed to conserving this species. They achieve this by managing programs that ensure a healthy reserve population. The birth of the four cubs is, therefore, crucial for the future of these animals.
In June, Beekse Bergen Safari Park celebrated its 55th anniversary. Rens Willemsen, the General Manager of the Safari Park, said, "We are thrilled with this iconic birth in our anniversary year. Since Beekse Bergen started as Lion Park Beekse Bergen in 1968, it is especially remarkable that this year, for the first time in six years, we can welcome four young cubs!"
The cubs were born in the enclosure along the route of the car and walking safari. For the time being, they are not visible to visitors.