National Zoo’s First Baby Lion Cub in 20 Years Born This Morning

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At 4 a.m. this morning, a tiny cub joined the growing lion pride at the National Zoo.

It was the first lion cub to be born at the National Zoo and also the first birth for the zoo's six-year-old lion, Nababiep. Mom is still being monitored by zoo staff, because there could also be another cub on the way. (In the wild, it is common to have multiple births several hours apart.)

Zoo keepers reported that the cub appeared to have been nursed, though it will take several weeks for staff and veterinarians to examine Mom and the cub (and determine its gender.) Typically, mothers won't introduce their cubs to the rest of the pride until six weeks after they are born.

Nababiep is one of two African lion sisters that the zoo has introduced to its four-year-old male lion, Luke, in hopes of developing a pride. In the wild, prides are led by a resident male lion, who is joined by related females and their offspring. Since many big cats are solitary animals, zoo keepers say, lions are unique in developing pride communities.

The birth of the cub is the next step in that process. Luke and the other female, five-year-old Shera, have been separated from "Naba" and her cub to give the pair privacy, but zoo keepers will reunite the family during the summer months.

The little cub won't be out in the lion yard for a while, but until then, visitors can watch the tyke on the zoo's new Lion Cub Cam. Though when I checked this afternoon, it was more of an empty-room-with-hay cam. Hopefully we won't be deprived of cub sightings much longer.

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