My, how time flies! Remember when that ravenous teenage boy of yours was just a giggling little bundle of joy in a bouncy seat? Or how about when the young lady who asked to borrow your car keys this weekend was taking her first steps there in the living room? They've brought you much joy, heartache and many proud moments as they've reached milestones over the years. Well, the staff here at Lee Richardson Zoo has been experiencing our own joy, worry and proud-parent moments over the past year as we've watched our precious, little lion cubs reach their first birthday.
On March 7, 2009, we saw the birth of three healthy, spotted, blind cubs weighing about one pound each. They entered the world with a few typical yells and immediately began developing their own little personalities. It wasn't long before their eyes opened, and they began to explore their new world with the help of their ever-attentive, first-time mom, Amali.
By April, it was time for their first physicals. This brought confirmation that we had two males and one female all weighing in around 11 pounds. They each received vaccinations and a clean bill of health and began to venture outside a bit with Mom. Like all toddlers, these three proved to be quite the handful not only for their mom, but for the keepers who desperately tried to establish a routine for them, but these little terrors just wouldn't have it. They would come and go as they pleased.
As the cubs' motor skills progressed, and they were confidently following Mom on a regular basis, they were finally ready to meet Dad and Grandma in May. Fortunately, everyone deferred to Mom's strict code-of-conduct around the little ones, and introductions went fairly smoothly. It wasn't long before everyone was able to watch the trio playing Attack-Dad's-Tail or Let's-Wake-Grandma-From-Her-Nap with much gusto. They have elicited many laughs, cheers and cringes from lucky spectators with all their growing-up antics.
It was their charming personalities that helped you, the public, finally give our new additions names in June of last year. Kianga, the female, has remained the most adventurous of the group and the first to explore new things. She seems to enjoy spending time with all members of the pride and can usually be seen front and center at the fence any time she has an audience. Kamaia, the slightly more laid back brother, was initially a challenge when it came time to come inside for dinner, but now seems to be the typical even-tempered, middle child. Dinari, the more timid of the three, is definitely a mama's boy and prefers hanging out with Mom and Grandma, but times are about to change.
In the wild, male lion cubs might remain with their pride for one to two years, depending on the size of the pride and the amount of food to eat. It's also dependent on just how long Dad is willing to put up with the growing boys and their ever-increasing demands for more food and space. Sound familiar? You see, by the time lion cubs reach a year old, they are about the equivalent of a teenage human. If you look closely at our two boys, now weighing in close to 200 pounds, you'll even see a few signs of maturity, or, dare say, rebellion in them with their burgeoning mohawks of mane.
What does all of this mean for our lion pride? It means our cubs are turning a year old, and the boys are about ready to move on to a new pride at the Dallas Zoo in the near future. But before we get ahead of ourselves, what's a birthday without a birthday party? We've decided to celebrate one of the many milestones ahead for our lion cubs by throwing a birthday party, and you are invited! From 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday we will be marking our trio's first birthday with all the trimmings: birthday cake, cards and gifts! Join us in front of the lion exhibit where you'll be able to make a special lion cub birthday card to be on display at the zoo, enjoy some delicious birthday cake generously donated by Sam's Club and Dillon's and, conditions permitting, at 3 p.m., watch our cubs open a very special gift made especially for them! You don't want to miss the festivities!