KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Welcome to the world, little king and queen of the jungle!
Two endangered African lion cubs were born at Zoo Knoxville on Tuesday, Dec. 21.
The cubs, one male and one female, were delivered by emergency Cesarean section surgery and are the first offspring of father Upepo and mother Amara, according to officials.
The zoo said they are also the first lion cubs born in Knoxville since 2006.
The cubs are healthy, vocal and being cared for around the clock by zoo staff with expertise in natal care, according to officials.
Their mother, Amara, was expected to give birth in mid to late December, and she was being closely monitored, according to the zoo. When she began showing signs of labor but delivery was not progressing, Amara was put under anesthesia and taken to the zoo’s animal clinic for an ultrasound.
A cub was lodged in the birth canal, endangering Amara and the other cubs, according to officials. The care team, including veterinarians from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM), made the decision to perform emergency surgery.
The zoo said four cubs were delivered, but two did not survive. However, the quick actions of Amara's care team saved the remaining two cubs and their mother.
The zoo said the cubs will be hand-reared together to ensure they are receiving proper nutrition and care due to Amara’s surgery and her inexperience as a mother.
Officials said these cubs are extremely important to the population of lions in the care of zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), who work collaboratively as part of the African Lion SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) Program to ensure a future for the species.