Mogo Wildlife Park’s treasured lioness, Zuri, has tragically died three days after giving birth to her first cubs.
The seven-year-old lioness had given birth to two healthy cubs on 8 December, however a third cub was born deceased and a fourth was unable to be birthed. It was Zuri’s first pregnancy and there had been complications with the death of the two cubs, and sadly she died on 11 December.
Zoo staff carried out an emergency caesarian to try and save one of the cub, however it had already died and caused severe internal rupturing to Zuri due to its size and positioning.
The blessing was that Zuri was able to return to her den after the mammoth procedure and let the two healthy cubs suckle for 12 hours, which will give them the best start to life.
“She was so strong and showed real signs she would recover, but after three long days of around-the-clock care, pain relief, antibiotics and prayer, unfortunately the damage was just too much for her body and she passed,” says Mogo Wildlife Park director Chad Staples.
Now it’s up to zookeeper Chad to play mum, which requires feeding the yet-to-be-named cubs every two hours, even throughout the night.
“It’s more than a full-time job,” says Chad. “However, they’re an absolute blessing and I’m loving every moment.”
Zuri was born at Mogo Wildlife Park and her mother, father and sister are still at the zoo.
Chad says she had a huge personality and was a beautiful lioness. He and Zuri had formed a strong bond during her pregnancy.
“We’d gone through the process of pairing her up with a male and doing ultrasounds during the pregnancy, to then having the absolute joy of the birth taking place,” he says. “It’s just so cruel it took this turn.”
However, there was nothing Chad or his team could have done to prevent it.
“Unfortunately, if this had happened in the wild, she wouldn’t have even lasted as long because there would have been no possibility of intervention,” he says. “We’ll never know why or what happened internally; it’s just the complications of pregnancy. The one real positive is that two cubs were born well.”
The cubs won’t be able to be reared by another lioness, especially since being handled by humans. However, when they’re older, Chad will find them a suitable male and they’ll be able to start their own pride.
Chad says he’ll be a protective parent because it’s really important the cubs survive.
“Lions are a huge icon for the world,” he says. “They’re one of those species that fascinate and amaze everyone. They’re also a species that’s dwindling in the wild so every individual is crucial and every birth is a huge thing.”
For now, the cubs are in Chad’s capable care and will carry on Zuri’s legacy at Mogo Wildlife Park. Visitors can also look forward to seeing the cubs out and about when they’re older.