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New cubs pride of the region

New cubs pride of the region

“Extremely cute, increasingly curious, and invaluable to the Australasian region” is how Auckland Zoo keepers describe the latest additions to the pride at Lion Hill, Pridelands.

Two yet to be named cubs (a male and female) were born early last month to first-time mum, two-and-a-half year old Amira.

All three are doing exceedingly well. Both cubs have now more than doubled their birth weights (each tipping the scales at a healthy 5kg) and are getting more inquisitive and adventurous by the day.

"Amira is proving to be a first-class parent," says Pridelands Team Leader Michael Batty. “She's appropriately protective of her offspring, and that means she won't be bringing them outside at Lion Hill until she feels they're ready. She's also a fantastic provider, as their health clearly shows.

Keepers are delighted that the arrival of two young males from South Africa last year, and their subsequent integration with the female pride, has so quickly reaped rewards.

Dad could be either of these males, though keepers have their money on the slightly older Lazarus, not Ngala. Blood samples, to be taken at the cubs' next vet check in a month's time, will confirm parentage.

"Whatever the outcome, it's a win-win situation for the Australasian region," says Mr Batty. "Their bloodlines are fantastic, and completely new for the region."

While both lions were hand-reared at Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn (South Africa), Lazarus is of wild-origin from the Kalahari Desert, and Ngala from parents from Eastern Transvaal outside Kruger National Park. Amira is the daughter of Kura, one of the other two adult females at Lion Hill.

“Lions are classified as vulnerable, with an estimated population size of less than 10,000 mature breeding individuals,” says Auckland Zoo Life Sciences Manager Maria Finnigan.

“That’s a pretty bleak situation, because there is a continuing declining trend due to habitat loss, causing lions to increasingly enter human populated areas where they are not welcome.

This makes co-ordinated zoo-based regional breeding programmes such as ours, just that much more important. Small populations can crash so rapidly and an African habitat without the king of the jungle is a sad prospect,” says Ms Finnigan.

Visitors to Auckland Zoo should not expect to see the cubs outside at Lion Hill until Amira is ready to bring them out. However, from Good Friday 9 April (and throughout the April holidays), there will be the opportunity to see recorded footage via a large television, set up at the Lion Viewing Shelter in Pridelands.

Here at noon (daily) visitors will also be able to chat to the lion cub keeper and get some up-to-the-minute information on how the cubs are doing. In addition, there's the opportunity for visitors to enter a draw (at the Visitors’ Centre) to win one of six special behind the scenes tours to meet the cubs.

Make a cub call Anyone can call 0900 NEW CUBS (639 2827 – calls cost 99c per minute) and enter our naming competition, running until Anzac Day 25 April. Suggest two great names and be in to win a special behind the scenes to meet the cubs and adult lions, a free 'Friends of the Zoo' family pass for a year, and a ‘Best of the Zoo Five' video.

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