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Four African lion cubs played with their father for the first time this morning in Lion Camp at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The almost four-month-old lions have been spending time at Lion Camp with their mother, Oshana, with only visual access to their father, Izu. Keeping the pride together is expected to help the cubs thrive.
"Lions are the only social cat. They live in a pride," said Tony Franceschiello, senior keeper. "It is always our ultimate goal that we get them out here together as a group, as a pride. It pretty much replicates what would happen in the wild. She (Oshana) would go off and have her cubs on her own, and when they're old enough she brings them back to the pride and introduces them, and everyone is together."
The cubs, Ernest, Evelyn, Marion and Miss Ellen, eagerly ran outside this morning into the grassy habitat with Oshana. Izu came outside next and was patient as his four cubs interacted with him for the first time. The youngsters took turns with Izu, pouncing, climbing and sniffing, and even playfully swiped at his tail.
Oshana has been bonding with and caring for her babies since they were born on June 22. Animal care staff began visual introductions with Izu and the cubs to get them used to seeing each other. After a month of visual introductions, physical introductions through a protective barrier provided Izu with the opportunity to smell and lick his newest offspring.
The cubs are named in honor of longtime San Diego Zoo Global supporters Ernest and Evelyn Rady and Marion Wilson, and in memory of Miss Ellen Browning Scripps, the San Diego Zoo's first benefactor. The cubs are described by animal care staff as being active, vocal, curious and feisty, each with its own distinct personality. When full grown at around three years of age, female lions can weigh 270 to 400 pounds and male lions can weigh 330 to 570 pounds.