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Arts & Entertainment

The Dallas Zoo Welcomes Three African Lion Cubs

The adorable cats, Izwi, Ilola, and Tadala, were born on August 17 at the zoo.
By Hannah Jones |
Dallas Zoo

The Dallas Zoo welcomed three African lion cubs to its pride this summer. The trio, Izwi, Ilola, and Tadala, arrived on August 17 and have been growing and bonding behind the scenes since. They’ll make their public debut later this fall, and the zoo has been sharing adorable photos on Twitter in the meantime. This is the first time that a litter of three cubs has been born at the zoo since 1974. 

Mother Bahati, and father, Kijani, are now the proud parents of one male and two female cats. Bahati received ultrasounds identifying two cubs, but the third came as a surprise when the lion’s four-hour labor led to a cesarean section. 

As soon as the cubs were born, the race to find them fitting names was on. The first-born male cub was dubbed Izwi, which means “vocal” in the Shona language of Zimbabwe. The second born female cub was named Ilola, which means “to become strong” in the Sesotho language of South Africa. Ilola was born smaller than her siblings, with developmental issues in her legs which made it difficult for her to walk properly. After undergoing physical therapy, the zoo says Ilola is now healthy and walking just fine. The third born female was named Tadala, which means “we have been blessed” in the southeast African Chewa language.

Because the cubs need time to nest with their mother and integrate into their pride, their public debut won’t be for another four to six weeks. Matt James, senior director of animal care, wants to ensure that the cubs hit their developmental milestones before the public can fawn over the zoo’s newest inhabitants.    

“The cubs, so far, are ahead of schedule, which is really amazing. They exceed all of our expectations … they’ve been exploring the new place, they’ve been crawling on each other, they’ve been coming up and learning that the zoologists can bring bottles of milk, and that’s where they’re learning to come and approach us. It’s almost as if they’re being trained already, but they are some smart kids,” says James.  

Although these cubs will be growing up in Texas rather than sub-Saharan Africa, the Dallas Zoo works to support a healthy African lion population under human care through their work with the AZA’s (Association of Zoos & Aquariums) Lion Species Survival Plan to safeguard lions against extinction.  

“We want these lions to grow up to be lions. It’s very important for their socialization and for their future development that they are treated like lions,” says James. 

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