The Buffalo Zoo has a little lion.
The as-yet unnamed male cub was born March 5 at the zoo, the only one of four in the litter to survive.
The 10-pound cub – the first born at the zoo in 25 years – was unveiled to an adoring media Wednesday. The cub was shown on a blanket behind a protective glass window for several minutes with zoo attendants on either side. The cub’s parents are Lelie, 6, and Tiberius, 3. Both adult lions are the offspring of native African lions, and were paired as a result of a Species Survival Plan recommendation. They came to Buffalo in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
“We are cautiously optimistic concerning our new lion cub, and we are thrilled with his progress so far, but he is not out of the woods yet,” said Donna Fernandes, the zoo’s president. “In fact, it is common not to have any surviving offspring of a first-time litter by a lioness, in the wild or in human care.”
There were four cubs in the litter, but three died within the first two days. The zoo said the keepers are following by-the-book care standards, monitoring the mother and the cub during this critical bonding and growth time.
The cub will need to meet several health milestones before it will be put on public display in the lion exhibit, and no timeline has been proposed. But the zoo will be posting pictures and video snippets of the cub to its social media pages on a regular basis over the coming few months.
The cub is the sixth lion currently in the zoo, and there could be another: Lelie’s half-sister Lusaka is displaying signs of pregnancy.
African lions are classified as vulnerable in the wild by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service takes a stronger stance, classifying the African lion as endangered.
Loss of habitat and poaching are among the key causes of this classification.