Update from March 16, 2023
Lincoln Park Zoo is ready to roar the names of the three male lion cubs born January 9. The cubs were named in partnership with several Ilchokuti (Ill-cho-koo-tee) or “lion guardians” who are Maasai community members that work in Tanzania alongside Lincoln Park Zoo’s partner, KopeLion.
Based in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of Tanzania, the Ilchokuti selected the names for the growing pride at the zoo’s Pepper Family Wildlife Center. The names of the lion cubs are Pesho (pe-sho), Sidai (see-dye), and Lomelok (low-mey-lock) which all have their own special meanings in the Maa language.
Pesho translates to an unexpected gift, while Sidai, means good like “good food” or “good lion” and Lomelok means sweet.
“These are more than little lion cubs,” said Vice President of Conservation and Science Sunny Nelson. “They represent hope for the future, a commitment to saving lions in the wild, and also the local communities who are doing this work every day.”
The goal of Lincoln Park Zoo and conservation partner KopeLion is to foster human-lion coexistence in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania and create a corridor allowing safe movement of lions to and from the greater Serengeti ecosystem. This is a critical place for lion conservation as lions face severe declines across most of their range. KopeLion works with communities to promote tolerance of lions, and is testing a strategy of rewarding communities financially for achieving lion conservation goals, such as increased lion presence on their land.
“Pesho, Sidai, and Lomelok remind us that we are all connected and need to work together to build a future where humans and wildlife coexist,” said Vice President of Animal Care and Horticulture Maureen Leahy. “From the zoo’s animal care team, and zoo and partner scientists to communities around the globe like the Maasai in Tanzania or anyone who has tuned into #lionwatch – lions are depending on us to help preserve them.”
Leahy continued, “While the cubs aren’t ready for the outside world quite yet, we are honored to be able to share the lion cubs with the public at Pepper Family Wildlife Center this spring.”
Lincoln Park Zoo gratefully acknowledges the Pepper Family and the TAWANI Foundation for their lead support of Pepper Family Wildlife Center. Additional support was provided by the Kovler Family.
Update from February 23, 2023
After six weeks of anticipation, Lincoln Park Zoo shares the three newest African lion cub additions born January 9 at Pepper Family Wildlife Center are all male!
This week, the cubs received their 6-week veterinary assessment. During this examination, the cubs received their first vaccinations and each had a portion of the hair on their forearm shaved for the zoo’s animal care team to easily identify each cub as they continue to develop their individual markings. Weighing roughly 2 pounds at birth, the cubs now all weigh between 15-18 pounds.
In order to minimize any potential disruption to the cubs or their mother Zari, a team of 18 keepers, veterinarians, and veterinary technicians carefully choreographed an approach. As a result, all three cubs received their examinations in under eight minutes while Zari participated in a training session in a separate space nearby.
“Since their birth, we have been monitoring the cubs and Zari via remote cameras,” said Dr. Lester E. Fisher Director of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Kathryn Gamble, D.V.M., M.S., Dipl ACZM, Dip ECZM. “Zari has been an incredible mother thus far and the goal is not to intervene with the cubs unless medically necessary. These preventive health exams are the first time, and probably the only time, staff will have directed contact with the cubs.”
As the cubs – whose names have yet to be determined – continue to grow more independent, they will begin to partake in positive reinforcement training sessions to participate in their own healthcare. These trainings can include behaviors like voluntarily stepping on a scale, or presenting a limb for a vaccination, or tail for blood collection. Prior to the cubs birth, lioness Zari participated in voluntary ultrasounds as part of her training, helping veterinarians and care staff prepare for a growing pride of lions.
The cubs remain behind the scenes for the next several weeks as they continue to grow in size and strength. Zari’s behavior will indicate when she is ready to introduce them to the rest of the pride, and to the outdoor habitat at Pepper Family Wildlife Center. In the meantime, the rest of the pride including the cubs’ dad Jabari, brother Pilipili, and aunts Hasira and Cleo are visible in the habitat. As of recently, Zari can also be occasionally spotted outdoors with the pride when she wants a break from the cubs.
January 10, 2023
The African lion pride continues to grow at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Pepper Family Wildlife Center! The zoo has been on #LionWatch since African lion Zari’s (Zar-ee) pregnancy was announced last month, and, on January 9, the 4.5-year-old African lion gave birth once again, this time to three cubs.
The cubs have yet to be sexed or named. The cubs appear healthy and began nursing within their first hours, a critical milestone. In the next few days, they will be more mobile and begin to open their eyes. Over the next few weeks, the cubs will remain behind the scenes as they grow in size and strength and remain dependent on Zari.
“We could not be more honored to care for Zari, her cubs, and the rest of the pride here at Lincoln Park Zoo,” said Curator of Mammals and Behavioral Husbandry Mike Murray. “The animal care and veterinary team confirmed Zari’s pregnancy after observing breeding behavior, monitoring hormone levels, and conducting voluntary ultrasounds.”
Zari was recommended to breed with 5-year-old male African lion Jabari (Ja-bar-ee). This is their second successful birth following their arrival at Lincoln Park Zoo in the fall of 2021. Zari gave birth in March 2022 to Pilipili (pee-lee-pee-lee) whom zoo guests enjoy watching grow into his mane and explore with his family. While the new cubs and Zari stay behind the scenes for the next several weeks and are not visible to the public, Lincoln Park Zoo visitors can often see Pilipili and the other lions at Pepper Family Wildlife Center.
Pepper Family Wildlife Center opened in 2021, is a state-of-the-art, savanna-style habitat focused on animal choice and includes thermal comfort zones for cooling and heating, intricate rockwork and climbing trees for vertical complexity, and space for offspring. The facility is home to a pride of African lions, two Canada lynx, two red pandas, and two snow leopards.
African lions are large predators that can weigh up to 500 pounds. Males are larger than females and can be distinguished by their mane, which surrounds their head and extends to their chest. Lions are a social species that live in prides. This vulnerable species is found in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and its habitat ranges from forests to shrublands and grasslands.
Lion populations have declined for the past 100 years, with fewer than 20,000 lions remaining. Lincoln Park Zoo is a proud partner of the KopeLion Project based in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania, which strives to foster human-lion coexistence.
The zoo will continue to post regular #LionWatch updates on its Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter channels as the cubs continue to grow.
Those interested in helping care for mom and her cubs all year long can shop the zoo’s Wish List at lpzoo.org/wish-list.
For more information about African lions, the zoo’s partnership with KopeLion, or Lincoln Park Zoo, visit lpzoo.org.