They may not be three months old yet, but Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s four new lion cubs are already acting like little kings.
The cubs were born November 19 to mother Maya and father Lazarus, and are now on public display.
But despite their young age, keeper Megan Lewis said they have been very brave, often racing ahead of Maya to get to the exhibit.
“There’s one little one that’s a little shyer than others but having said that in the last week he’s certainly gained more confidence,” Ms Lewis said.
The cubs have been named Karoo, Virunga and Sheru, with the zoo holding a competition to choose the name of the fourth.
So far everything had been going “textbook”, Ms Lewis said, with both Maya and Lazarus being the perfect parents.
“We introduced Lazarus in the last few weeks and he’s being very patient with them. He lets them climb all over him and play with him. If they get their claws in a bit much he’ll give them a snarl and they know they’ve gone too far,” she said.
It’s the second litter for Maya and Lazarus, and the little cubs will soon be introduced to their older sisters Zuri and Makeba. While there won’t be any sibling rivalry, Ms Lewis said it would be the first time the sisters had interacted with lion cubs and they had been curious about their brothers.
“Maya will definitely be there, she is a fantastic mother and she’ll make sure the girls don’t play too roughly with the boys and will definitely keep them in line,” Ms Lewis said.
In the short term the brothers will remain in their family group, moving to the new pridelands exhibition when it opens later in the year, however their long term future will depend on where they were needed for genetics, the keeper said.
In the past century the number of wild lions has gone from 200,000 to 20,000. The fall in numbers was largely due to the increasingly close proximity between lions and humans, Ms Lewis said.
“You can understand if you’re a farmer in Africa and you’ve got your livestock and that’s your livelihood and you know that there are lions in the area, you’re going to do whatever you can to protect that livestock because that’s what keeps your family alive,” she said.
As well as breeding the lions, Ms Lewis said the zoo was also involved in Beads for Wildlife which is designed to give families in northern Kenya an extra source of income.
The tribal women make beaded jewellery and keyrings, which helps to supplement the loss of livestock, Ms Lewis said, while also preventing the farmers from killing the lions in retribution.