Zari, Christopher Bijalba

Lincoln Park Zoo Announces African Lion Pregnancy

Female Lion Zari Expecting New Year Offspring at Lincoln Park Zoo

The new year means a new African lion cub—or cubs—at Lincoln Park Zoo! Today, the zoo announced that 4-year-old female African lion, Zari, is pregnant. Zari is expected to give birth in January at Pepper Family Wildlife Center.

The pregnancy is a result of a breeding recommendation from the African Lion Species Survival Plan® (SSP) that cooperatively manages the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) population. SSP Breeding and Transfer Plans are informed by genetic analyses conducted by the AZA Population Management Center at Lincoln Park Zoo. Using these data, Zari was recommended to breed with 5-year-old male, Jabari.

“This is a very exciting time for the lion pride at the zoo but also for the entire zoo population. A birth represents preservation of a species that has faced many challenges in the wild,” said Curator of Mammals and Animal Behavioral Husbandry Mike Murray. “As with any birth, there are many possible outcomes but we remain cautiously optimistic that Zari will remain healthy and the future cub or cubs will be, too.”

Animal care staff suspected a possible lion pregnancy based on observed breeding behavior combined with behavioral data using ZooMonitor, a Lincoln Park Zoo-created animal behavior monitoring app. The pregnancy was then confirmed via hormone analysis using the non-invasive collection of fecal samples. Lastly, during a positive-reinforcement training session, Zari voluntarily participated in ultrasound sessions which supported a pregnancy diagnosis.

Zari and Jabari were previously successful in producing a male cub, as Pilipili was born on March 15 earlier this year. At 9 months of age, Pilipili is fully integrated with the rest of the pride and is very closely bonded with resident females Cleo and Hasira as well as dad, Jabari. Pilipili can regularly be seen at Pepper Family Wildlife Center playing with the other lions and already sporting the beginnings of an iconic lion mane.

Lincoln Park Zoo will be posting regular updates on its Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter channels using #LionWatch as well as on the zoo blog and ZooMail, a biweekly news digest.

In preparation for this exciting arrival, the zoo has included items on its Wish List for current and future cubs. Those looking to provide year-round care for Zari, Pilipili, or the future cub(s) can also ADOPT a lion online or at the Member Center at Searle Visitor Center.

Gestation for African lions is roughly 110 days, typically resulting in litters of one to five cubs. While cubs only weigh a few pounds at birth, full grown lions can weigh up to 500 pounds. African lions are considered Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Learn more about the lions and other zoo happenings at lpzoo.org.

About Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo inspires communities to create environments where wildlife will thrive in our urbanizing world. The zoo is a leader in local and global conservation, animal care and welfare, learning, and science. A historic Chicago landmark founded in 1868, the not-for-profit Lincoln Park Zoo is a privately-managed, member-supported organization and is free and open 365 days a year. Visit us at lpzoo.org.