WASHINGTON — March came in like a lion at the Smithsonian National Zoo, which welcomed four African lion cubs earlier this week.
The 9-year-old African lion Shera gave birth to a litter at the Great Cats exhibit at the zoo on March 2. The four cubs come after 10-year-old lion Nababiep gave birth to two healthy lion cubs in January.
The zoo’s animal care team has been closely observing the Shera and the cubs. All four cubs appear to be nursing, moving and vocalizing well, according to a news release from the zoo.
“Shera successfully raised her previous litter of four in 2010, so we’re cautiously optimistic that these cubs will thrive,” Kristen Clark, and animal keeper at the Great Cats exhibit, said in the release.
“Like any new mom, she needs some peace and quiet to bond with her cubs, so we’re giving her the solitude she needs. From what we’ve observed on the cam, her behaviors are right on point, and there’s no need for us to intervene.”
The zoo is working to develop a pride — the social structure for lions. The Great Cats exhibit is home to Shera and Nababiep, the six cubs and one male lion, Luke — the father to all the cubs.
“Once Shera’s behavior indicates that she’s comfortable with the cubs meeting their half-siblings, aunt and dad, we’ll begin introductions,” Rebecca Stites, animal keeper, said in the release. “Our aim is to bring all nine lions together.”
Shera’s cubs will be part of the exhibit by early summer. Until then, animal keepers and veterinarians will examine them. Nababiep’s cubs will go on exhibit in late spring, according to the zoo.
Until the cubs join the exhibit, they can be viewed on a zoo web cam.