Wild Animal Park has two new lion cubs
By: ANDREA MOSS – Staff Writer
SAN PASQUAL VALLEY —- Staff members at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park are keeping careful watch over a couple of tiny new treasures hidden away from the public’s eye.
Two lion cubs were born May 16 to a lioness at the park named Oshana. Living in an off-exhibit section of the park’s Lion Camp, the twin cubs made their appearance almost exactly a month after park veterinarians had to euthanize a 5-month-old lion cub that had captivated the hearts of both its keepers and park visitors.
That cub, a male named Koza, was put down April 17 after being mauled by an adult female lion named Mina. Park officials have said the attack occurred after an animal-care staff member accidentally opened a gate that was supposed to keep the two animals separate.
Koza’s death shocked people throughout the United States who had followed the cuddly cub’s progress on the park’s Web site. Park employees were also said to be devastated by the incident.
The arrival of the cubs is therefore a bright spot in day-to-day life at the park, spokeswoman Yadira Galindo said.
"Koza held a special place in the heart of the keepers who worked with him every day," she said. "So I don’t think that the birth of another would simply replace that. But certainly, it is nice to see that the lions continue interacting and breeding and eating as they naturally would."
Galindo also said the births revived hopes for an expansion of the park’s lion breeding program.
"It’s important because these lions (that produced the new cubs) aren’t represented genetically here in the U.S.," she said. "They came from a park in South Africa."
Koza, who made his debut Nov. 11, was the first lion cub born at the Wild Animal Park in 10 years. The Zoological Society of San Diego, which runs the Wild Animal Park and the San Diego Zoo, usually lets animal parents raise their own offspring.
In Koza’s case, veterinarians at the animal park intervened after his mother, Etosha, had complications with her delivery.
A twin to Koza was in a breech position and was stillborn. The mother was then anesthetized and Koza, whose name meant "bright" or "to shine" in Swahili, was born via Caesarean section.
Keepers decided Koza should be hand-raised to keep his mother from killing the cub if she did not recognize it as her own. The little lion quickly wormed his way into the hearts of people who wandered by the park’s nursery and found themselves drawn to a glass window where they could watch the cub being bottle-fed, tussling with chew toys and stuffed animals, trailing after those caring for him, or sleeping.
In January, a puppy named Cairo became Koza’s companion in the nursery.
The mauling incident occurred after keepers placed Koza in an area where he and a full-grown member of his mother’s pride could see and smell each other, as the first step toward introducing the cub into the group. The new cubs’ isolation in the maternity ward is unrelated to the accident, Galindo said Wednesday.
"The way lions behave, a mother would typically take her cubs into a solitary location and be away from all animals for a certain amount of time until she is comfortable introducing those cubs to her pride," she said. "So we’re just trying to mimic that, giving her time to bond with her cubs."
Park guests will have to wait several months to see the new cubs, which have not been named yet, Galindo said.
"The mom’s been taking very good care of them," she said. "So we have not intervened at all, which is why we don’t know their genders."
Keepers will be in no hurry to introduce these cubs to the Lion Camp pride, which includes three adult females and two 2 1/2-year-old cubs, Galindo added.
"We’re going to make sure that, first, the lion cubs are mobile and that mom is comfortable seeing the other adults around them," she said.
Contact staff writer Andrea Moss at (760) 739-6654 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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