Keepers ask community members to vote for their favorite names
Kya's cubs are on the go. The 3-week-old African lions at the Oregon Zoo — two females and one male — are walking now. They have been venturing outside their den box recently, and keepers think it is time to give them names.
"Mom and the cubs continue to do well," said Laura Weiner, senior keeper for the zoo's Africa section. "The little ones are up to around 9 to 10 pounds each, and they have started walking around and exploring. They still look like little fluff balls, but they are feisty and energetic — they'll wrestle and bat at each other when they're on the ground."
Until now, the zoo's animal-care staff has referred to the young cubs by the last digit of the numbers they were assigned as part of the International Species Information System: 6, 7 and 8.
"They're bonding well, and we're starting to see their personalities," Weiner said. "We think it's time to give them names that suit them."
Keepers have selected two possible names for each cub and are asking the public to vote.
Votes will be accepted through Thursday, Oct. 9. The zoo will announce the winning names on Friday, Oct. 10.
"A lot of animals at the zoo get their names from nations or cultures associated with their species' native habitats," Weiner said. "And for these cubs, we wanted to bring attention to what's happening in their range countries. Just two decades ago, lions were plentiful in much of Africa, but today they are vanishing at alarming rates. The wild lion population is estimated to have dropped by 75 percent since 1990."
The cubs, born Sept. 8, are the first offspring for Kya and Zawadi Mungu, the cubs' father. In about six weeks, once the cubs are strong and steady on their feet — and if the weather is warm enough — animal-care staff will evaluate whether they are ready for a public debut.
The zoo's three adult lions — Zawadi, Neka and Kya — came to the Oregon Zoo in 2009 based on a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for African lions. Zawadi, the male, came from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and the females, Neka and Kya, came from the Virginia Zoo and Wisconsin's Racine Zoo respectively.
The AZA has established Species Survival Plans for many threatened or endangered species — cooperative breeding programs that help create genetically diverse, self-sustaining populations to guarantee the long-term future of animals. These SSPs also support relevant field projects, research and public education to help prevent animal endangerment and extinction.