Four African Lion cubs are now on exhibit at the Philadelphia Zoo!The Philadelphia Zoo is the proud home to four African Lion cubs, born earlier this year to mother and father, Tajiri and Makini. The cubs were born on June 25th and 26th, so they are currently two and a half months old. In the zoo community, animals are paired like an “arranged marriage” based on the best genetic lines or family tree in in order to breed in accordance to the AZA’s Species Survival Plan. The Species Survival Plans help to manage specific species that are threatened or endangered in the wild, like lions, so that zoos maintain a healthy and genetically diverse population to support conservation of the species. Makini was brought to the Philadelphia zoo in 2011 and Tajiri in 2012, so the birth of these four lion cubs was the result of a planned match that was successful!
Tajiri and Makini bred in March 2014 and when Tajiri did not go into another heat cycle in April, the zoo starting preparations for the births by setting up three private bedrooms for Tajiri. Nearly all big cats prefer to give birth in a quiet and hidden place, so when Tajiri chose the smallest bedroom that keepers were only able to see via closed circuit camera, no one was surprised. Tajiri has shown strong maternal behavior from the second the first cub was born and she slowly allowed the cubs to venture out of the smallest bedroom, in view of the keepers, after about a month. While the cubs are still nursing, they are also starting to eat meat! Feeding the cubs is an important step for the keepers, as this helps to build relationships between the keepers and cubs. Makini has been separated from Tajiri and cubs since the birth, just as he would be in the wild. In the wild, the lioness goes off on her own for the birth of the cubs and usually introduces the cubs to the pride after about 8 weeks. As this is about the time that the cubs would be introduced in the wild, the keepers are working on introducing Makini to his cubs.
Now that the cubs are old enough, they are allowed out in the lion’s yard with Tajiri for a couple hours a day so that the public can view them. Boy are they the picture purrfect family! The cubs are very playful with each other and with Tajiri. They have a lot of energy and appear to be having loads of fun exploring the outside world, with Mom keeping a close eye on them at all times. The cubs climb all over Tajiri and she bathes them while also playing with them. It’s just simply beautiful to see the bond Tajiri has with her babies and to see the cubs learning the ropes of their environment and their growing bodies! You don’t want to miss out on the chance to witness this firsthand! Make sure you go early in the morning if possible, as the big cats tend to be most active in the morning before it gets too warm out! While I was at the zoo today, I overheard one of the keepers saying that the cubs play for a couple hours in the morning until they are exhausted, then they tend to sleep the rest of the day until about 4PM. I promise you that you will thoroughly enjoy watching this lion family! See below for some pictures I took today!
You can keep up to date on Tajiri and Makini’s little family by checking out the zoo’s Big Cat Blog. This is where I got my information about the breeding and birth and you can read in more detail about it there!
Learn more about the threats lions face in the wild and read about how Panthera’s Project Leonardo is helping protect the world’s remaining wild lion population. If you have kids, taking them to see the cubs at the zoo is the perfect way to introduce them to the beautiful species and it’s the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about why lions are endangered and what is being done to conserve the wild population! Don’t forget there are many ways for you to get involved with helping big cats!