On the morning of December 23, a Zoo Keeper heard tiny vocalizations coming from the “cubbing den” of female lion “Kaya.” Kaya had given birth overnight, and the following day it was confirmed that five cubs were born, but one did not survive. Of the four remaining cubs, three are males and one is a female. The mortality rate for cubs up to one year old is close to 30% in zoos – and significantly higher in the wild.
All four cubs are gaining weight, but veterinary staff remains concerned about one male who has slow weight gain and appears weaker than the others. “A litter of five cubs is unusual,” says Zoo Veterinarian Alexis Moreno. “It would be a challenge for five cubs to thrive – and we are monitoring the health of the remaining four offspring closely – it is still a large litter. I am cautiously optimistic at this point.”
The cubs and mother are behind-the-scenes and are receiving the best care possible. Kaya and her cubs have access to two “bedrooms” and a cub den (a cave like room with minimal lighting and temperature regulation to reduce stress and human intrusion). Kaya is eating well, nursing, and is protective of her young. Shombay, the father, is separated from the rest of the pride for safety. He is being provided with access to the exhibit as well as adjacent behind-the-scenes holding. He is vocalizing to Kaya and the young, and is very curious.
This is Kaya and Shombay’s second litter of cubs at Reid Park Zoo. She delivered three cubs in July, 2011 and all three offspring are now grown and at other accredited zoos. Reid Park Zoo partners with colleague facilities to make responsible breeding decisions for the protection of the species.
For the animals’ safety, no viewing of the cubs is possible at this time. Kaya and the cubs will remain behind the scenes for 6-8 weeks.