Far away from Pride Rock and without the help of a wise baboon to hold them over the African wilderness, three lion cubs were born in Zoo Miami.
The cubs, two males and one female, made history by becoming the first lions born in the zoo’s 33-year history.
Kashifa, a 3-year-old lioness gave birth to the cubs on Sept. 24.
On Tuesday, zoo staff announced the birth and conducted the cubs' post-birth examinations that determined their sex, weight and overall health.
All cubs appear to be in excellent condition, Zoo Miami spokesman Ron Magill said.
“At a week-old their eyes are already open,” he said. “That rarely happens. We are so pleased.”
Zoo visitors won't be able to see the baby lions until at least three months. They'll be kept off exhibit until zoo staff feels comfortable that the cubs can be introduced to the rest of the pride without incident.
Their mother, Kashifa, shares the exhibit with her sister, Asha, and two males, Jabari and Kwame. There is a bit of added drama to the historic birth: it’s unknown which lion is the daddy.
One of the biggest risks of introducing the cubs into the pride is that male lions in the wild instinctively kill cubs that are not their own, Magill said.
Zoo staff plans to slowly introduce the cubs to the other lions. One of the methods is to place the cubs behind a thick glass so that the other lions can get used to seeing them and having them around.
Lions have suffered significant population declines over the last several decades with only an estimated 32,000 individuals remaining in the wild, down from over 100,000 living 50 years ago. In the wild, the average lifespan of lions is approximately 12-15 years but in captivity they can live over 20 years, Zoo Miami officials said.