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Zoo's lion den adds three new faces

(Image is Clickable Link) by: PHOTO BY BROCK PARKER, COURTESY OF THE OREGON ZOO - Neka, a 6-year-old African lion at the Oregon Zoo, gave birth to three healthy lion cubs Saturday night. The Oregon Zoo’s 6-year-old African lion Neka gave birth Saturday night to three kittens. They were born between 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Sept. 7 and are doing well in the zoo’s maternity den.

The litter is the first for Neka and Zawadi Mungu, the cubs’ 5-year-old father.

“We’re all delighted at the arrival of these cubs and very proud of Neka,” said curator Jennifer Davis, who oversees the zoo’s Africa and primate areas. “It’s terrific to see her taking such good care of her babies. There’s still a lot that could happen, so we’re being very cautious and giving her as much quiet time as possible. But so far she seems to be taking to motherhood quite naturally.”

“For a first-time mom, we couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Laura Weiner, senior keeper for the zoo’s Africa area. “She cleaned her cubs off right away when they came out, and she’s been allowing them to nurse. The cubs all appear to be healthy. They’re moving around well, and they have a lot of energy.”

Zoo staff is monitoring the litter via a surveillance camera to make sure the cubs continue to nurse properly and that everything is going well. Keepers plan to give Neka and the cubs privacy for at least the first 24 hours. After a few days staff may try to go in for a quick veterinary checkup on the litter.

After about six to eight weeks, if the cubs are healthy and continue to thrive, animal-care staff will determine whether they are ready for a public debut.

“We will be watching the cubs closely over the next several weeks to assess their development,” Davis said. “The first couple of days are especially important. Our staff has been completely dedicated to giving Neka everything she needed for a successful birth. Thankfully, Neka hasn’t needed much help from us. So far, she is doing a great job on her own.”

The zoo’s three adult lions — Zawadi, Neka and Kya — came to the Oregon Zoo in 2009 as part of a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for African lions. Zawadi, the male, came from the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and the females, Neka and Kya, came from the Virginia Zoo and Wisconsin’s Racine Zoo.