Werribee Open Range Zoo welcomes first lion cubs in almost six years

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Werribee Open Range Zoo welcomes first lion cubs in almost six years

Credit: Zoos Victoria

Werribee Open Range Zoo has welcomed a litter of three healthy and adorable lion cubs!

In some adorable, heartwarming news this week, Werribee Open Range Zoo is celebrating the arrival of a healthy litter of three precious lion cubs – the first of this threatened species to be born at the Zoo in almost six years.

The cubs, which each weigh approximately 1.5 kilograms, were born in the evening on Sunday, June 4, to 11-year-old mother Nilo and five-year-old pride male Sheru.

Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around the region here.


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The births follow a three-month pregnancy during which the experienced third-time mother was closely monitored by Zoo veterinarians and keepers.

“The safe arrival of these lion cubs is really exciting. It’s wonderful to have three more healthy African lions in the Australasian zoo breeding and conservation program,” Werribee Open Range Zoo Director Dr Pilgrim said.

“Unfortunately their wild cousins are facing increasing threats including human-wildlife conflict, poaching and habitat destruction.”

African lions are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, with their population declining to only 23,000 to 39,000 remaining in the wild in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sheru travelled to Werribee Open Range Zoo from Sydney Zoo in March 2022 to establish a new breeding pride. Werribee Open Range Zoo has been Nilo’s home since she arrived from Givskud Zoo in Denmark in June 2014.

Dr Pilgrim said the pregnancy and birth also provide physiological benefits for Nilo.

“Having an environment at the Zoo that enables the lion pride to exhibit their repertoire of natural behaviours is incredibly important. Breeding and reproduction have significant long-term health and behavioural benefits for a lioness, while raising cubs also provides opportunities for lifelong learning for the pride.”

Nilo and her cubs will remain in a private area of their Werribee Open Range Zoo home, away from public view, for about eight weeks to allow them quiet time to bond and thrive.

“In the wild, when it is time for a lioness to give birth, she will leave her pride to find a private shelter in the bushes or a cave. This is done to protect and care for her cubs while they are unable to defend themselves. Nilo and her cubs will have the opportunity to replicate those wild behaviours here at the Zoo, too.”

Visitors still have the opportunity to see father Sheru and adult lioness Asali along the Zoo’s African River Trail while Nilo and her cubs are bonding in private. The lion cubs will be named through a voting competition for Zoos Victoria members and donors in coming weeks.

Find out more and book your tickets here