The Denver Zoo Has A New Lion Cub And, Yes, It’s As Cute As You’d Expect

July 31, 2019
The lion cub born in the Denver Zoo July 25 explores his den box.  The African lion was born to mom Neliah, 7, and dad Tobias, 3.The lion cub born in the Denver Zoo July 25 explores his den box.  The African lion was born to mom Neliah, 7, and dad Tobias, 3.Courtesy of the Denver Zoo
The lion cub born in the Denver Zoo July 25 explores his den box. The African lion was born to mom Neliah, 7, and dad Tobias, 3.

There's a new lion cub at the Denver Zoo.

The African lion cub was born July 25 to mom Neliah, 7, and dad Tobias, 3. Neliah and her cub are healthy, active and alert, according to animal care staff.

"The important boxes are checked," said Denver Zoo Vice President for Animal Care Hollie Colahan. "The cub appears to be healthy and it's nursing and mom's doing a great job of taking care of it. Those are kind of the big initial milestones that we look for."

Courtesy of the Denver Zoo
The Denver Zoo's new lion cub rolls around in the birthing den.

Zookeepers have not had access to the cub to determine weight or gender yet, said Colahan. As long as there is no sign the cub is in any distress, the staff plan to wait until the mother feels comfortable enough to let them take the cub for an exam.

"We do it all at the pace of the mom," she said. "As she gets comfortable, she will voluntarily separate from the cub. She will go into another room and the keepers will give her some treats and if she's relaxed about that, then we can go in and get a look at the cub. We do a quick check over to make sure everything looks okay, but there's no urgency to that."

Colahan said she doesn't expect any problems. Neliah has had two cubs at the zoo before, so she knows the drill.

Neliah and her cub spend most of their time in their den box, where Neliah delivered her baby, according to zoo officials. The box mimics the kind of secure birthing and nursing space she would seek in the wild.

Experts moved the cub's father, Tobias, to Denver in 2018 in the hopes he would mate with Neliah.

Courtesy of the Denver Zoo
The lion cub born in the Denver Zoo July 25 explores his den box. The African lion was born to mom Neliah, 7, and dad Tobias, 3.

Once care staff has determined the cub's sex, Colohan said the public will have an opportunity to help name it.

Colahan said the cub will make its debut later this summer after bonding with its mother and meeting the rest of the pride of lions at the zoo behind the scenes.

The timing of this birth is perfect, Colohan said. The zoo hopes excitement over the birth and over Disney's The Lion King remake will help bring awareness — and dollars — to wild lion preservation efforts.

"The original movie came out 25 years ago, and in that time we have lost half of the lions in Africa."

Saturday, August 10 is World Lion Day. Colahan said the zoo plans to use that day in particular to publicize opportunities for people to help save lions in the wild.