23 May 2024

A healthy trio of two boys and a girl

Our trio of 10-week-old Endangered Asiatic lion cubs had their first health check this week, and their eager keepers were finally able to confirm the sexes of our newest big cats.  

The veterinary team and keepers carried out the medical exam in the cubs' familiar dens, where they are most relaxed. The team formed an efficient production line to get all three checked, vaccinated, and to determine their sexes as quickly as possible.  

The cubs were kept together while mum Arya was let into another of her dens, ensuring that our big cat keepers Kathryn Sanders, Amy McKillop, John Ho and Tara Humphrey could help with the hands-on health check. The keeper team helped round up the cubs: a job easier said than done, as the young lions have already developed very sharp claws and feisty personalities. 

Keepers scoop up a feisty lion cub for its first health check
© ZSL

Head vet Amanda Guthrie began by determining the sexes of the cubs, announcing that Ayra was the proud mother of two boys and a girl. She then gave each cub a quick check-up, which included administering vaccines, fitting microchips, and inspecting their tiny paws and ears to ensure they were healthy.  

The cubs’ sexes and vital statistics will be added to the global species database, which is shared by zoos across the world, officially adding these precious big cats to the international breeding programme of this endangered species.  

The bigger picture

Zookeeper Kathryn Sanders said: “Our three Asiatic lion cubs are doing incredibly well, and their first health check is a major milestone for them; I’m delighted to say that they are thriving. 

“Asiatic lions are an endangered species and the wild population js estimated to be only 600 to 700 individuals. One of the greatest vulnerabilities of the wild population is that it’s isolated to a single habitat: the Gir Forest in Gujarat, India. The zoo population is a vital backup for this vulnerable wild population. 

“Should natural disaster or disease lead to further decline of this Endangered species, the international breeding programme for this Endangered species ensures there is a healthy, genetically diverse population, which could help establish the lions in the wild. The addition of these three cubs at London Zoo is a fantastic conservation achievement."

Lion cub plays with mum
© ZSL

Why these health checks matter

Head vet Amanda Guthrie added: “Their first health checks and vaccinations are really important. Not only do they allow us to assess their progress and boost their young immune system, but every opportunity to examine an animal as rare as these boosts our veterinary knowledge and expertise, which we can directly apply to animals we are protecting in the wild."   

Keepers administer an important first vaccine to boost the cubs' immune systems
© ZSL

The lions and our global efforts to restore threatened species as part of ZSL, are supported by Liontrust, who are helping to name the conservation zoo’s three cubs. Working with educational charity, 10Ticks, Liontrust is gathering names suggestions for the cubs from school children across the UK, which will soon be put to a public vote.

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