Asali Gives Birth to Four Cubs
Four African lion cubs, three females and one male, were born on August 16 to second-time parents Asali and Tomo. Kazi, Asali’s sister, was scheduled to be moved off-view into her own denning shelter the same day as she was expected to give birth to her first litter of cubs later in August.
All three of the adult lions and cubs were observed interacting well together in the Heart of Africa lion habitat at the Zoo, currently closed to the public. Asali and her cubs were moved into a denning shelter for protection during this critical bonding time.
Asali’s second litter of cubs came as somewhat of a surprise. Lion pregnancies are typically determined by analyzing hormone levels in the lioness’ fecal matter. Keepers had been submitting Asali’s samples to an endocrinologist to determine if she was expecting. Her results showed little evidence of the progesterone hormone spike of a pregnant lioness, but it is possible for a lion to be pregnant even with low progesterone levels. Just like with humans, lion pregnancy tests can produce false-negative or false-positive results. Despite the abnormal readings, Asali and her cubs present as healthy.
Kazi Gives Birth to Three Cubs
Kazi gave birth to three cubs on August 20. Two of the cubs seemed to be in great health and began to nurse but the third cub was too weak and sadly passed away. First time mom Kazi is doing great caring for both of the surviving male cubs.
It will be several weeks yet before the lions will be seen by zoo visitors. In the mean time, you can see Asali’s cubs in this Columbus Zoo & Aquarium video.
The Columbus Zoo Lions are part of the Species Survival Plan
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recommended the pairings of Asali and Kazi with Tomo as part of its Species Survival Plan for African lions. The AZA, of which the Columbus Zoo is an accredited member, strives to maintain a sustainable population of lions in North America.
African lion populations have plummeted by a staggering 42 percent over the past two decades and are currently listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List. One of the major threats to these wild populations is related to human population growth and agricultural expansion. Lions, who pose a threat to valuable livestock, are often indiscriminately killed as pre-emptive protection measures. Prey depletion, habitat loss, bushmeat trade and poorly regulated sport hunting have also led to lion population decline, according to the IUCN.
In 2014, the AZA reported that 339 African lions were residing in 98 institutions in North America. Of those animals, 247 are pedigreed (meaning lions with known ancestries). The Columbus Zoo lions represent two of only 61 pairs of pedigreed lions recommended for breeding by the SSP to maintain genetic diversity.