According to Fox 28, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed a second litter of African lion cubs this week, just days after the other lioness at the Zoo gave birth. The new mom, 8-year-old Kazi, gave birth to three cubs between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20. Two of the cubs appeared to be in great health and quickly began nursing. One of the cubs, however, appeared weak since birth and passed away less than 48 hours later.
“We are always cautiously optimistic with newborns. Because Kazi is a first-time mother, the risk was even greater,” said Adam Felts, curator at Heart of Africa. “She and the surviving cubs are thriving, however, and we hope they continue to bond during this fragile time.”
Kazi’s cubs were born in an indoor den in the Heart of Africa region; about a week after her pregnancy was announced. The gender of the cubs is not yet known.
Kazi’s half-sister, Asali, also gave birth this week, on Aug. 16, to four healthy cubs. Asali’s birth took place in the lion yard, at the base of the public viewing area. Asali and her cubs are doing well and are still outside.
The lion habitat has been closed since Monday to ensure a quiet environment for Asali’s new litter, and continues to be unavailable to Zoo visitors until further notice.
“This day is bittersweet for everyone at the Columbus Zoo, especially the keepers working directly with the lions,” said Tom Stalf, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo. “To have two litters born into a lion pride in the span of mere days was overwhelmingly joyful. With lion populations declining in the wild, the birth of even one cub is cause to celebrate. Equally, the death of a cub is devastating. We are grateful to have six cubs still with us, and hope Asali and Kazi are able to continue to care for their cubs. We look forward to the day when our community can see the whole pride together.”
Both lionesses at the Zoo mated with Tomo per the pairing recommendations of the Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP) in conjunction with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which strives to maintain a sustainable population of lions in North America. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is an accredited member of the AZA.
Tomo and Asali became parents for the first time when Asali gave birth to three cubs in 2009. Prior to this week, that was the latest litter of lions to have been born at the Columbus Zoo.
Once common in Africa, lion populations have plummeted by a staggering 42 percent over the past two decades. They are currently listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List. One of the major threats to these wild populations is related to human population growth and agricultural expansion. Lions, which pose a threat to valuable livestock, are often indiscriminately killed as pre-emptive protection measures. Prey depletion, habitat loss, bushmeat trade and poorly regulated sport hunting have also led to lion population decline, according to the IUCN.
In 2014, the AZA reported that 339 African lions were residing in 98 institutions in North America. Of those animals, 247 are pedigreed (meaning ones with known ancestries). The Columbus Zoo lions currently represent two of only 61 pairs of pedigreed lions recommended for breeding by the SSP to maintain genetic diversity.
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