New lion cubs nap, nurse and take wobbly first steps

September 11, 2014 - 12:54pm

Zookeepers say first-time mom Kya is 'a natural' as 3-day-old cubs continue to thrive

African lion Kya seems to be "a natural" when it comes to motherhood, keepers at the Oregon Zoo say. Since the birth of her four cubs on Sept. 8, the first-time mom has been grooming, nursing and wrangling her offspring like a veteran lioness.

"Kya has been an excellent and attentive mom so far," said Laura Weiner, senior keeper for the zoo's Africa area. "For the past few days, it's been almost constant nursing, resting and grooming. This morning, one of the cubs was off by itself a bit, and Kya groomed it and nudged it back over with the others to nurse."

This is important, Weiner says, since the 3-day-old cubs have yet to open their eyes and are still unable to walk on their own. In a den-cam video from yesterday, one of the cubs can be seen taking a few tentative, wobbly first steps.

"They're very floppy," Weiner said. "They're not walking yet — more like crawling and pulling themselves along with their two front paws."

Kya, a 7-year-old African lion at the Oregon Zoo, gave birth to four cubs Sept. 8 between about 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The first-time mom and her new family are off exhibit in a private maternity den to allow the new family a comfortable place to bond, and keepers plan to give them complete privacy for up to a week. As with Neka last year, animal-care staff have taken a hands-off approach, but are closely monitoring the litter to make sure everything is going well.

Sometime next week — depending on Kya's comfort level — staff may try to go in for a quick veterinary checkup on the litter, at which time they would be able to determine the cubs' genders. In about six to eight weeks, if the cubs are healthy and continue to thrive, animal-care staff will evaluate whether they are ready for a public debut.