Vets begin caring for smallest of lion cub triplets

September 25, 2013 - 5:20pm

Two of Neka's 18-day-old cubs continue to grow and thrive while smallest receives vet care

Neka has proven a natural when it comes to motherhood. Since the birth of her female triplets on Sept. 7, the first-time mother has been grooming, nursing and wrangling her cubs like a veteran lioness. Despite her exceptional mothering skills, the smallest cub in the litter - which struggled to nurse – has been brought into the care of vet staff because of persisting health issues.

While smaller or weaker cubs are common in lion litters, zoo staff became concerned with the smallest cub's health when an initial exam revealed she was dehydrated with elevated white blood cell counts and low body temperature and blood-sugar levels. On Sunday, vets removed her to an incubated care area to provide supplemental foods, fluids and medication without disturbing the rest of the family. After three days of treatment, she is showing progress in some areas, but not in others.

"She's taking to the bottle very well now and her weight continues to grow, but she's not maintaining her body temperature on her own," Veterinarian Dr. Tim Storms said. "Our goal is to see her body temperature and blood values return to normal so we can return her to mom."

Neka's other cubs - including the one pictured above - continue to nurse, grow and explore their den, and Neka has returned to socializing with the other adults each day.

For the time being, Neka and her cubs will remain off exhibit in their private maternity den to allow the new family a comfortable place to bond. In another month or two, if the cubs are healthy and the weather is warm enough, animal-care staff will evaluate whether they are ready for a public debut.