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African lion cub born at The Buffalo Zoo, first in 25 years

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

He does not yet have a name but he's generating a lot of excitement at the Buffalo Zoo. Officials are confirming that in early March, a male cub was born to one of the two lionesses that reside at the Zoo.

The cub is the son of Lelie, a lioness that arrived at the Buffalo Zoo in 2013. He is the first lion cub born at the zoo since 1991. Mother and cub will not be on public display for the near future, allowing them time to bond and for the cub to grow.

"While we are thrilled, we are also exercising caution, both with this announcement and with his exposure to the public," said Dr. Donna Fernandes, president and CEO of the Buffalo Zoo. "We are following every best practice to ensure bonding with his mother, who is also adjusting to her new role. We are monitoring his nutrition, growth and overall health, all with very limited human contact."

Dr. Fernandes expressed hope that the cub will eventually be introduced to his father, Tiberius, who was roaming the outdoor habitat during the news conference. 

The cub was born on March 5 and is the lone survivor of a litter of four. Zoo officials say high rates of mortality among litters of first-time mothers is common.

Dr. Fernandes spoke of the importance of the cub's survival, noting the depletion of the African lion population. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the species as "vulnerable," while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classifies them as "endangered."

Tiberius and Lelie are both the offspring of lions that were paired as part of an ongoing Species Survival Plan.

Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO
These preschoolers were among the lucky few to see the Buffalo Zoo's new lion cub, which was introduced by officials during a Wednesday news conference. The cub will remain off-exhibit for a few weeks until officials are confident he is healthy and grown enough to be introduced to the habitat.

"Lions used to be so common, you thought they would never, ever be at risk," she said. "But their populations have declined significantly, because of habitat loss, even poaching of lions, loss of prey density. It's sad that we now have to worry about having reserve populations for some species."

Meanwhile, the other lioness at the Buffalo Zoo, Lusaka, is going off-exhibit. Officials revealed she is showing signs of her own pregnancy. 

Until the cub may be introduced into the zoo's habitat for the public's enjoyment, officials plan to post pictures and videos of the cub's progress on its various social media platforms.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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