Lion Cubs Meet Lion Cubs

Posted at 1:15 pm December 21, 2007 by Marcia Redding

As you lion fans know, Oshana and Mina’s litters are very close in age: only four days apart. By the time the cubs were a few days old, all seven cubs plus their moms have had access to each other through a mesh panel. Lots of visiting has been going on. Mina and Oshana, who are sisters, have been happy to be able to socialize with each other again; there has been much rubbing and affectionate greeting behavior going on. The cubs have been fascinated with each other as well; Mina’s three and Oshana’s four have spent lots of time looking at each other through the screen.

Things were going so well, the decision was made to allow all the cubs and their moms to be together. In the wild, lion cubs are introduced to the pride at around six weeks, so the timing was right. After some discussion, we decided the best option would be to just open up the dividing mesh and let it happen as nature intended. This was a first for us: we have never had two litters this close in age before. In preparation, each cub received a haircut: small shaved patches on various parts of their bodies that allow us to quickly identify who is who.

When the big day arrived, December 19, we were all a bit nervous, although expecting things to turn out well. As planned, the divider door was opened with no fanfare…and soon everybody was together! The cubs behaved as if they had always been one pride and extremely vigorous play began immediately! Mina and Oshana greeted each other with friendly vocalizations and set off to check out each other’s cubs and dens. One by one, the cubs were pinned down by big lion paws and inspected, with much talking from all parties (the cubs mostly squalled and complained when their play was interrupted). As time progressed, we were all grateful for the identifying marks on the cubs – in the big balls of tumbling fur, it would have been next to impossible to tell them apart!

The group was together for a few hours, and then were separated for the rest of the day. Things had gone beautifully, but with all the excitement, Mina and Oshana had not let the cubs nurse. As soon as everyone was in their respective rooms, the exhausted cubs had a long nursing bout and fell asleep almost immediately. Later, when they awoke, the first thing they did was run to the mesh door and look for their new friends.

The following day, the big event was repeated. This time, all the cubs took a couple of naps, all piled into one den or the other! We still saw no nursing, so we separated the group again after several hours. We anticipate that when Mina and Oshana relax a little more, nursing will occur as normal and the group can be together for longer periods. Of course, the next big question is…when to introduce dad Izu? We know he is a good and gentle father, from his behavior with his last litters. Maybe this intro will happen very soon.

What a rewarding experience! Events like this are what really make our jobs special. I will keep everyone updated about the pride’s progress, and will be sure to post photos when they are available for viewing. These are exciting times at Lion Camp!

Marcia Redding is a senior keeper at the Wild Animal Park.

Read Marcia’s previous blog, Mothering, Lion Style.

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16 Responses to “Lion Cubs Meet Lion Cubs”

  1. Rees family says:

    Congratulations on being able to successfully introduce the two litters! We are waiting eagerly for names, pictures, and the date of their debut. Thank you for all your hard work. We enjoyed seeing Izu last night. He was happily sleeping on a pile of hay on the heated rock. Happy Holidays.

  2. Grace says:

    Awesome story! Thanks for sharing with us. It’s amazing that both Mina and Oshana have had at least two litters within the past few years! I can’t wait to see the photos of the cubs and mothers!

  3. Jack says:

    That is so darn exciting!!!! I love to read updates on the cubs I find it so enjoying. Have U come up with names for the cubs???? thanx for the update

  4. Peggy says:

    I bet that experience was the absolute cutest and at the same time scary not knowing how they would all get along. It sounds like they are having a ball playing with each other and being cubs. Glad to hear moms are good and relaxed about letting each others cubs be explored and smelled. I can’t wait to be able to see them on exhibit I hope it will be soon and I hope Izu gets to meet his baby cubs soon too, he is such a good daddy allowing his last cubs to climb all over him this time it will be more challenging for all with 7 of them to contend with.

    Thank you Marcia for the update of those little cute cubs and Merry Christmas to all of you

  5. Cheryl says:

    I’m planning to go to the WAP one night next week to enjoy the Festival of Lights (my absolute favorite holiday tradition – the sights, sounds, smells and tram ride!) and look forward to checking on big daddy Izu. Congratulations on the intros – I bet the cubs are having a ball playing with their cousins – what a great holiday gift to them. Thanks again for all you do – and Happy Holidays to everyone!

  6. Bernice says:

    Oh this is so awesome!! I enjoy these updates so much… It’s wonderful that the girls and their babies have had such a smooth and happy reunion. Just imagine daddy Izu when his 7 precocious bundles are all over him!

  7. Margaret says:

    Congratulations on a successful integration. What a great Holiday present for everyone. Mina and Oshana have an extra set of eyes and paws to help with their boisterous cubs, cubs have more cubs to play with for great enrichment, and keepers have a wonder-full opportunity to watch a whole new perspective of natural lioness behavior. Now the great moment for the third set of eyes and extra paws and impressive stature can prepare himself to enter the picture. Will you introduce him to each lioness and her cubs separately? It would seem that each mother would want to see him one on one first to be less stressed. Once he has seen each ” family” for a day or two, and since the mothers and cubs are used to each other, it would appear that this big pride will soon be out together. What fun is in store for everyone. How long after the pride is consolidated, can you safely release them out on exhibit? Since that is also a stressful time for the mothers, I imagine that it is still a few weeks away. One thing a time is the prudent thing to do. HAPPY HOLIDAYS one and all!

    P.S. for Moderator – How about an update on the newest elephant that was born a couple of weeks after the newest lion cubs? The video interview was great, but an update would be a great holiday gift to virtual zoo visitors.

  8. Lainie says:

    Oh yes, cannot wait to see the pictures of the cubs and hopefully everyone together. Orrr some video clips maybe like with the last cubs ?? =)

  9. Marie says:

    Thank you Marcia for letting us know all went well with the introduction. I know cubs playing together is a precious sight. Now we will just hold out breath until dad is introduced and all is still well.

    Thank you,

  10. Carole says:

    A wonderful account of these early introductions! I can hardly wait to see them. When will they be on exhibit? Friends from Los Angeles are anxiously awaiting this event and plan to come at the earliest opportunity. During a recent visit to the WAP we were able to view Izu next to the window so we were inches away. What a beautiful lion! He is gorgeous — perfectly toned, an increasingly fuller mane. We could actually see blood vessels under that taut skin.

  11. Deb says:

    Okay, I’ve really tried to be patient but when are those wonderful, darling lion cubs coming out for us lion fans? And, how will all of the cubs and the adults be rotated? Pops Izu is sooo beautiful and did so great with previous cubs. Will he do the same with these new cubs as well? It was truly a special sight for all to see when the entire families were out in the exhibit.

    I’ll wait to hear from you. Thanks very much

  12. Heather says:

    I too am VERY curious about when the little ones are going to make their debut. I have reserved a spot at the Valentine’s Roar & Snore, and I am really hoping that they will be ready to spend some time in the exhibit by then… I can’t wait!

  13. Marcia Redding says:

    Thanks everyone for your patience, I know it’s frustrating. As of now all 7 cubs and both moms are together 24 hours a day. We will wait to introduce Izu until the cubs are used to the exhibit. They are almost ready….it could be as soon as the first week in February. I will post a blog with a detailed update next week.

    Again, hang in there!

  14. Peggy C. says:

    Any news on when the cubs might come out on exhibit. I can hardly wait to see them, their Mom’s. also any news on the females that went to another zoo and when are the males leaving?

  15. Desert Rat says:

    Any news on when the cubs might come out on exhibit. I can hardly wait to see them

  16. Jack says:

    I am bubiling with excitement. Can’t wait to see pictures of the CUBS!!!!