They might not be swapping roses and chocolates this Valentine’s Day, but early signs are pointing to love for our lion pride!
Last December, Monarto Zoo’s African Lion pride grew by three thanks to the arrival of new males Kashka, Kubwa and Kito.
The fearless felines have been busy settling in to their eight hectare home while also getting used to their new neighbours and potential love interests; six lionesses.
Currently, the two groups are able to see each other from a distance where they can interact visually and vocally.
And after weeks of positive breeding behaviours from afar, keepers recently began allowing the males to have mesh contact with a few females at a time, in a safe and controlled environment.
Monarto Zoo Keeper Tim Mellonie said the team was pleased with how mesh introductions had been developing between the young three-year-old brothers and females.
“During the introductions we have been seeing some very positive breeding behaviours from both the girls and boys,” Tim said.
“We’ve observed the girls rolling on their backs and tail flagging which shows they are interested in the young lions.
“As we continue mesh introductions we are looking forward to seeing the social dynamics and hopefully develop a large breeding pride.”
Keepers will continue mesh introductions for the two groups until it can be ascertained the pride will have a positive meeting face-to-face.
With first introductions being a roaring success, keepers decided to treat the big cats to some love-themed enrichment for Valentine’s Day.
The boys enjoyed opening some love heart shaped parcels to find delicious meaty treats.
The start of positive breeding behaviour from the pride marks an exciting prospect for both Zoos South Australia and the regional African Lion breeding program.
“Sadly, lion populations are declining with only around 25,000 – 30,000 thought to be left in the wild,” Tim said.
“It would be incredible to hear the pitter-patter of little paws so we can contribute to the insurance population and support genetic diversity in the species.”
On average, a lioness gestation period lasts between 105-110 days before they give birth to a litter of 2-4 cubs.
Sadly, like lion numbers, habitats for lions have declined as a human population, land cultivation and numbers of livestock have steadily increased in areas lions call home.
The majestic species is often killed to protect livestock or as retaliation kills for livestock loss.
As a conservation charity existing to save species from extinction, Zoos South Australia works closely with the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) and regional breeding programs to ensure lions remain for generations to come.