Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is celebrating the birth of three African lion cubs. The first cub was born on May 13 and cubs two and three were born the next morning on May 14 to first time mother, 13-year-old Shani.
This is the first time lion cubs have been born at Naples Zoo in over 30 years. Shani and her mate, 10-year-old Masamba, were specifically matched by the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan® (SSP), the Naples Zoo press release states. The SSP is a cooperatively managed breeding program that works to create sustainable populations of threatened and endangered species.
“The pair has been recommended for breeding since 2013 so we’ve been waiting for these cubs for a long time,” said Liz Harmon, Naples Zoo Director of Animal Programs, per the press release. “Although Shani is older than the average first time lion mother, the cubs are all doing very well and it is wonderful to see her being such a good mom.”
Zoo veterinarian Dr. Lizzy Arnett-Chinn and Naples Zoo’s animal care team are cautiously optimistic that the cubs will continue to thrive and are giving Shani the solitude she needs to care for her young, the press release states. Shani and her cubs are monitored by a den camera and she has been observed protecting and caring for her babies.
“Because 90% of Africa’s lion population has disappeared in the last 75 years, Naples Zoo’s strategic response is two-fold,” said Jack Mulvena, Naples Zoo President and CEO, according to the Naples Zoo press release. “First, we cooperate in a scientific breeding program that has created a healthy, long-term population through significant births like these. Second, we fund successful efforts in Africa that are helping to reverse this decline by reducing human-wildlife conflict. We also host safaris annually that bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into places that protect lions.”
African lions are classified as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, per the press release. Overall lion numbers continue to decline due to illegal hunting, reductions in prey populations, and habitat loss.
The cubs, who have not been named yet, and their mother will not be on exhibit until mid-summer. However, visitors can see 3-month-old clouded leopard kittens on exhibit every day from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and in the 2:30 pm daily Seated Safari Show.