SEATTLE ‒ For the first time in 20 years, Woodland Park Zoo, a major Pacific Northwest attraction and wildlife conservation institution, is celebrating the birth of lions.
The mother, 3-year-old Adia (AH-dee-uh), gave birth last night, November 8, to four cubs following a gestation period of 109 days. The litter represents the first offspring for the mother and 13-year-old father Hubert.
The cubs mark the first birth of lions at Woodland Park Zoo since 1991. The genders of the cubs have not been determined at this time.
The mom and cubs are off public exhibit in a maternity den to allow the new family to bond in a hushed, comfortable environment. Animal management staff are closely monitoring the litter via a web cam to ensure the mom is providing excellent maternal care and the cubs are properly nursing.
According to Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo, average litter size for lions is two to three, so this is a large litter, especially for a first-time mother. “The first 48 hours are critical, and animal care staff will be monitoring each of the cubs closely for signs of normal behavior and development over the next several weeks.”
Woodland Park Zoo’s lions belong to the South African subspecies, Panthera leo krugeri. A 13-year-old female lion, named Kalisa, also lives at the zoo’s award-winning African Savanna. Known as the Transvaal lion, it ranges in Southern Sahara to South Africa, excluding the Congo rain forest belt, in grassy plains, savanna and open woodlands. These lions range in weight from 260 to 400 pounds.
To minimize disturbance to the newborns, the other two adult lions are indoors and may not be on public exhibit throughout the weekend.
Cubs typically weigh about 3 pounds at birth. They are born blind and open their eyes within a week or two after birth. As part of the exemplary animal care and health program for the zoo’s thousand-plus animals, zoo veterinarians will perform health checkups every couple of weeks for weight monitoring, vaccinations, and critical blood and fecal sampling.
Adia arrived in 2010 from Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, in Ohio, under a breeding recommendation by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for African lions. According to Ramirez, the complex system of SSPs match animals in North American zoos based on genetic diversity and demographic stability. “However, matchmaking efforts also take into consideration the behavior and personality of animals. We’re very fortunate the attraction between Adia and Hubert was mutual and there was a connection,” explained Ramirez.
“We are so excited about this birth and look forward to establishing a new pride of lions here,” added Ramirez. “The feline keepers have invested many hours into ensuring a successful introduction between Adia and Hubert so this is a wonderful outcome of their dedication to this breeding match.”
Not only is the lion birth significant for the zoo, but for the Krugeri, a priority subspecies due to underrepresentation in zoos and in the wild. “The origin of most lions living in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) is unknown. Only in the last decade have we started paying more attention to what part of Africa they came from. Therefore, our focus has shifted to breeding lions which we know came from South Africa,” noted Ramirez.
Approximately 199 South African lions currently live in 100 AZA-accredited zoos in North America.
“We know zoo members and our community will be very excited to see our cubs They will be out for public viewing when they are a bit older and demonstrating good mobility skills, and outdoor temperatures reach a minimum of 50 degrees,” added Ramirez.
Video and photos of the cubs can be seen at www.zoo.org/lioncubs. As updated footage and images are made available, lion fans can keep tabs by visiting this page.
Woodland Park Zoo participates in 72 Species Survival Plans ‒ from Partula snails to South African lions ‒ sponsored by AZA. Led by experts in husbandry, nutrition, veterinary care, behavior, conservation and genetics, AZA-accredited institutions manage each species as one population in North America to maximize genetic diversity, with the goal of ensuring the long-term survival of the population and the health of individual animals. SSPs also involve a variety of other collaborative conservation activities such as research, public education, reintroduction and field projects.
Zoo fall/winter hours: 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. daily. Fall/winter admission: Adult (13-64) id="mce_marker"1.75; Child (3-12) $8.50; Toddler (0-2) Free. Active, retired, and veteran U.S. military and their families, seniors and people with physical disabilities receive an admission discount. Zoo members receive free zoo admission year-round. Parking: $5.25.
From November 23 through January 1, Woodland Park Zoo will be illuminated in a whole new light at its inaugural winter lights festival, WildLights presented by KeyBank. The sparkling, after-hours event hours will be 5:30-8:30 nightly and will be closed December 24 and 25.
Approximately 375,000 energy-efficient LED lights will recreate wild animals and wild places in two and three dimensions along the zoo’s pathways and North Meadow inspired by exotic destinations from across the globe, including “Northern Lights,” “The Water Hole” and “Jungle Lights.”
Tickets can be purchased online only by visiting www.zoo.org/wildlights. Night-of-event tickets will be for sale at the zoo’s West Entrance, if not sold out. WildLights will be a rain or shine event‒there will be no ticket refunds.
For more information or to become a zoo member, visit www.zoo.org or call 206.548.2500 or 548.2599 (TTY)