BY Dominick Mezzapesa - Wildlife Planet
She is beautiful, she's brave and she's absolutely adventurous.
Just seven weeks ago the Fort Worth zoo announced that their Lioness Abagebe had just delivered three cubs (You can see the video at the bottom of this page). All three lion cubs were in perfect health, the male lion named Siyanda, Lindelani and her sister Thabisa, were all doing great and Abagebe was showing signs of being a very attentive mother, and her actions today only validated the zoo's initial assumptions.
The zoo announced that today they would be opening the dens doors that led to the outside and while this did not mean the cubs would be making their first public appearance, it did mean there would at least be a chance.
A line of reporters and photographers gathered outside and like the New Years Eve Ball dropping in Times Square, the reporters counted down the seconds till the gates opened.
Lindelani didn't disappoint her adoring fans and within minutes she was outside, her big brown eyes were wide with excitement, trying to take in all the wonderful new sights and sounds of her outside surroundings.
Her mother Abagebe was none too happy when she spied the line of cameras and people encircling her pen. She quickly led her carefree baby back into the den and giving a menacing warning to anyone that dared object to her decision.
“She is a great mom. She is very protective,” said Lindey Blackney, a mammal keeper at the zoo, adding that the three babies — two girls and a boy — are starting to show their own personalities.
“It will be interesting to see. The fact that she [Lindelani] was the one to venture out — I always thought it would be the bigger ones,” Blackney said. “It will be interesting to see who will take the lead and who will be the most adventurous.”
Abagebe was bred with Jabulani. Both were born at a South African wildlife facility and arrived at the zoo in 2012.
The babies are important to zoos nationwide and to conservation efforts, said Ron Surratt, director of animal collections at the Fort Worth Zoo, because they are a completely new bloodline in the U.S. and Abagebe and Jabulani are not related.
“That is good for the population,” Surratt said. “We want to be self-sustaining as far as our captive population, so it is good for that. But then also it is a hedge against extinction. If something ever has to happen down the road, we will have lions.”
Once found across Africa, throughout Asia and as far west as Greece, lions now live mostly in designated national parks or hunting areas. Only about 30,000 are left in Africa and about 300 in India, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Lindelani is the smallest of the three cubs. Her siblings are Siyanda, a male, whose name means “we are increasing,” and Thabisa, a female, whose name means “bring joy.” The cubs weighed about 2 pounds at birth.
The females could grow to about 250 pounds in adulthood, and Siyanda could reach 375.
“They are going to be very slow coming in and out for the next few days,” Surratt said. “After about a week, they will be out running around playing.”
The zoo has had four African lion litters since 2004, but this is the first for Abagebe and Jabulani.
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