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Posted at 2:38 PM ET, 05/18/2010

Lion cub born at National Zoo

By Washington Post editors

lionmom.jpgMehgan Murphy/Smithsonian

It's a new zoo baby!

Ecstatic officials at the National Zoo announced that for the first time in more than 20 years, a lion cub has been born at the zoo. Nababiep, 6, gave birth Tuesday around 4 a.m.

“This is a historic moment for the National Zoo and positions us to contribute even more significantly to the conservation of African lions and to become leaders in the captive management of a pride,” said Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoo. “We hope everyone shares our excitement and will help us welcome the cub enthusiastically.”

The cub has been mobile and appears to have nursed. Because it is not uncommon for intervals of several hours between births, keepers will continue to monitor Nababiep in case additional cubs are on their way.

The cub, whose sex is not yet known, will not be out in the yard until summer, so the public will be able to see the cub only via Lion Cam for now.

Officials said animal keepers and the veterinary team need time to examine the cub and monitor Nababiep as she adjusts to being a first-time mother. In the wild, lions may wait up to six weeks before introducing their cubs to the rest of the pride.

Although the zoo has managed lions in the past, it has been many years since it had the right combination of animals by age and gender to develop a pride. The zoo slowly introduced its two female African lions (Panthera leo), Nababiep and her sister Shera, to male lion Luke in its effort to build a pride.

The new cub is a boost to zoo officials looking for another animal that can match the popularity of Tai Shan, the D.C.-born panda who was sent to China earlier this year.

“Cubs are a huge draw for the public and are natural ambassadors for their species,” said Kristen Clark, a lion and tiger keeper. “Visitors will be able to watch the cub grow up with its mother, aunt and father -- the way it would in a defined social pride in the wild.”

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By Washington Post editors  | May 18, 2010; 2:38 PM ET
Tags:  China, Dennis Kelly, Giant Panda, Lion, National Zoo, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Tai Shan  
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chasing that deer around must have sparked something in the lion den...

Posted by: bmp246 | May 18, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

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