Can a Stork Carry a Lion Cub?
Audubon Zoo welcomes two lion cubs to the pride
With all the talk of tigers this month for the NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship game (Geaux LSU!), we almost forgot about the very important feline residents of New Orleans. Not to be outdone by striped mascots, the Audubon Zoo African lion pride grew by two with the birth of lion cubs Saturday, Jan. 11.
Lions Kali (mom), and Arnold, (dad), are proud parents to two healthy and active cubs, whose sexes have yet to be determined. Kali gave birth to three cubs, but as can happen, one sadly did not make it.
“The cubs’ birth is a huge success for the Lion Species Survival Plan, which ensures healthy, genetically diverse populations of lions within Association of Zoos and Aquariums institutions,” said Steve Marshall, vice president and managing director of Audubon Zoo and Audubon Park, in a press release. “Half of Africa’s lions have disappeared in the past 25 years, and the species faces growing threats from poaching, loss of prey and habitat destruction. I could not be more excited to be a part of such an important conservation milestone for this dwindling species.”
According to Audubon Zoo officials, the cubs will live at Audubon Zoo for the foreseeable future. As part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan, that plan will ultimately dictate where the cubs are transferred based on diversifying the species population for conservation efforts within AZA institutions.
In the meantime, Audubon hopes having the cubs at the zoo will help connect visitors to this threatened species and instill in guests the need to protect African lions and save them from extinction.
“The birth of the cubs is the culmination of hard work by a team of people and a success for everyone in New Orleans,” said Joe Forys, curator of large mammals, in a press release. “The lion cubs are now a part of New Orleans and watching them grow will be an amazing experience for every guest who comes to see them.”
The lion habitat has been open to the public for less than a year and quickly became a major attraction for the zoo. Since its opening in May 2019, zoo officials report attendance was trending about 10 percent ahead from the previous year. And visitors from beyond the New Orleans metro region are slightly more than half at 52.48%, or 47,199 tourist visitors during the months of May through August 2019.
Expect to see another increase in attendance in about three months, when the cubs will be old enough to make their public debut. For now, Kali and the cubs will remain out of the public eye in their den box for a sense of security and to continue to bond and receive veterinary care. The cubs will gradually be introduced to the rest of the pride, which includes two female lions, Nia and Zuri.
As for future pride growth, Kali and Arnold may breed again based on AZA Species Survival Plan recommendations if breeding will help population genetics and demographics within AZA institutions.
For those curious to see the cubs as they grow, Audubon recommends connecting via social media for updates, photos and videos. You can also watch a birth announcement video here.