COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Three African lion cubs were born late last week at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Mother Naomi, a 4-year-old African lion, is doing well and is being very attentive to her three new cubs, who appear to be healthy, the zoo said.
This is Naomi’s first litter. The pregnancy was a surprise to zoo officials due to the cub’s father, Tomo, having undergone a vasectomy in 2018 because his genes are strongly represented within the African Lion Species Survival Program population.
After the procedure, Tomo was returned to the Heart of Africa exhibit with five lionesses. While rare, the vasectomy failed.
The zoo did not provide any images of the new cubs, stating it was allowing mom and cubs time to bond.
Tomo was humanely euthanized in May at the age of 15 years after his quality of life diminished due to age-related issues, including degenerative joint disease and kidney disease which didn’t allow him to stand.
Naomi, who is also Tomo’s daughter, mated with him before his rapid health decline. In the wild, it is not uncommon for lions to mate with their own offspring should a different dominant male not emerge within the pride.
Zoos accredited by the association of Zoos and Aquariums manage prides with the intent to maximize genetic diversity for lions, though rare situations such as Naomi’s pregnancy can occur. There is no scientific evidence that familial breeding increases genetic problems, the zoo said.
Lions are listed as a vulnerable species and they continue to be under increasing pressure in their native Africa. Over the last five years, the Columbus Zoo has provided approximately $130,000 to promote the co-existence of people and wildlife around the world.
“We are committed to the work the Columbus Zoo is doing to protect lions in Africa, as well as inspiring our guests to join us in taking action to help lions and other species. We are very grateful for their support of the Zoo as it is also benefiting important conservation initiatives and having a direct impact on saving wildlife in their native ranges,” said Columbus Zoo President/CEO Tom Stalf.