National Tiger Sanctuary Shocked at the Unexpected Arrival of Two Male Lion Cubs
By Lauren Healey
On the morning of March 20, staff at the National Tiger Sanctuary north of Branson were shocked to find two male lion cubs had been born in the night.
The cubs were an unexpected surprise, as the sanctuary is not actively breeding any animals.
Abbie Knudsen, with the National Tiger Sanctuary in Saddlebrooke, said the male lions have had vasectomies, but there is always a slim chance the surgery will reverse, which must have happened in this case.
“We believe the oldest male, Leo, is the father, so we will have to go back and redo that vasectomy,” she said. “Had we been expecting the cubs, we would have done certain things to prepare, like they would have had their own habitat. We have also had to pause on some construction work we had planned because we didn’t want all the noise stressing out the mother and her cubs.”
The cubs and their mother, Niara, have not been on display to the public in order to minimize stress to the family.
“We are focused on providing a comfortable place for Niara to raise the cubs herself, and that may mean they are not available for public viewing for several more weeks,” a release from the sanctuary states. “Unfortunately, often cubs are torn from their mothers in captivity to be used as props in photo opportunities. We are strong advocates against public handling of exotic animals due to the risks it presents to animals and people.”
Knudsen said the sanctuary must be respectful of when the mother is ready for the cubs to be in the public eye.
“As they get older, she’ll get more and more comfortable with visitors, and eventually they’ll be able to be on display to all our visitors but it could take up to a couple of months — it’s really up to her behavior,” she said.
The cubs have not yet been named.
“One of our veterinarians volunteers in Kenya in a very impoverished community and the village has been following the story of the cubs and is going to select names for the cubs — probably authentic Swahili names,” she said. “We hope to have names within a week or so.”
The cubs currently weigh about 20 pounds, according to Knudsen, and weighed only about two pounds at birth.
“Here in the next eight to 10 months, they’ll be 200 pounds,” she added.