Fort Worth Zoo welcomes first lion cub since 2015, marking ‘conservation success’

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The Fort Worth Zoo welcomed its first lion cub in nearly a decade in October, marking a conservation success and another advancement in diversifying the African lion bloodline in the United States, the zoo announced Thursday.
The cub was born Oct. 20 about 5:30 p.m. to mother Saba and father Jabulani. Since he was Saba’s first cub, zoo staff decided to name him Moja, which is Swahili for the number “one.”
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At 4 days old, Moja weighed just 2.7 pounds. Now, he tips the scales at 16 pounds. The zoo said he has begun to practice innate behaviors, often playing with Saba’s tail and chewing on her hindquarters to imitate a predator-prey dynamic.
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Moja hasn’t met Jabulani or Abagabe, another female member of the zoo’s pride, yet, but introductions will be planned in the new year as the cub continues to grow, the zoo said.
Moja was the first lion cub born at the Fort Worth Zoo since 2015. (The Fort Worth Zoo)
Moja’s birth is a milestone that’s benefits extend far beyond the Fort Worth Zoo, which is part of a cooperative breeding program among North American zoos that aims to create a “genetically diverse and thriving population of lions,” the zoo said. The zoo’s adult lions — Jabulani, Saba and Abagabe — were born at a South African wildlife facility. When they arrived at the Fort Worth Zoo in 2012, they introduced a new bloodline of lions into North America, varying the gene pool, the zoo said.
African lions are a vulnerable population, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with the population continually decreasing.
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Moja is also the first cub born in the zoo’s Predators of Asia & Africa habitat that opened in June 2022. The zoo announced “A Wilder Vision,” a four-phase master plan it says “guarantees for generations the survival of certain species that may in our lifetime become extinct in the wild” in 2016. After raising $130 million in private funds, it completed phase one, “African Savanna,” and phase two, “Elephant Springs,” in addition to “Predators of Asia and Africa.”
The zoo said keepers are watching Moja closely to ensure he is big and strong enough to navigate the new space, including the water features. Staff will consider that, in addition to temperature and weather shifts, as they plan Moja’s public debut.

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