PORTLAND, Ore. – A six-year-old African lion gave birth to three healthy cubs at the Oregon Zoo Saturday night.
Zoo spokesman Hova Najarian said Neka and her cubs are doing well in their maternity den. The cubs are the first for Neka and Zawadi Mungu, the cubs’ 5-year-old father.
“We’re all delighted at the arrival of these cubs and very proud of Neka,” said curator Jennifer Davis, who oversees the zoo’s Africa and primate areas. “It’s terrific to see her taking such good care of her babies. There’s still a lot that could happen, so we’re being very cautious and giving her as much quiet time as possible. But so far she seems to be taking to motherhood quite naturally.”
Zoo staff are watching closely over the cubs on surveillance video, said Najarian. Keepers plan to give Neka and the cubs complete privacy for at least the first 24 hours.
Staff may try to go in for a veterinary checkup on the litter in a few days. They would be able to determine the cubs’ genders at that time.
“For a first-time mom, we couldn’t ask for anything more,” agreed Laura Weiner, senior keeper for the zoo’s Africa area. “She cleaned her cubs off right away when they came out, and she’s been allowing them to nurse. The cubs all appear to be healthy. They’re moving around well, and they have a lot of energy.”
Lions typically have a gestation period of just about three months.
Neka, Zawadi and the zoo’s third lion, Kya, are all at the Oregon Zoo as part of a national program to breed lions. They were brought to Oregon in 2009 from zoos in San Diego, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The program is coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums with the goal of building the populations of endangered or threatened species. Some of the revenue raised by the zoo while exhibiting the lions goes to fun field projects, research and public outreach, according to a zoo spokesman.