The four lions born two years ago at the Oklahoma City Zoo will leave next week for their new home in El Paso, Texas. The cubs will be transported Tuesday or Wednesday to the El Paso Zoo, where they will be the centerpiece of a new exhibit of African animals.
Each cub weighed about 3 pounds at birth, and they’ve grown to more than 300 pounds now. The siblings were hand-raised by zoo staff and are a favorite among visitors, Assistant Zoo Director Brian Aucone said. "We’re happy that they’re going to a great new facility, but there is such an interesting and unique history,” Aucone said. "There is some sorrow of them leaving.” The cubs are moving as part of the Species Survival Plan, a national cooperative breeding and management effort among zoos that monitors the African lion population. The cubs are not recommended to breed any time soon, Aucone said, but they are moving to El Paso because of the new exhibit there. The four lions will be put in individual crates and transported by truck, Aucone said. The lions will be given medicine to ease anxiety but likely will be awake for most of the ride, he said. When the lions arrive in El Paso, they will live in their new habitat which opens to the public on March 13, said Rick LoBello, education curator for the El Paso Zoo. The Oklahoma City lions will be the centerpiece of a nine-acre, $17 million Africa exhibit featuring zebras, meerkats, giraffes and other animals. "They’re going to be the highlight of the new entrance of the zoo,” LoBello said.
See the lions
The four lion cubs — Zari, Malaika, Kalliope and Xerxes — will be on exhibit daily through Monday at the Oklahoma City Zoo, NE 52 and Martin Luther King Avenue. Admission is free on Mondays through February, including this Monday.
Admission other days is $7 for adults, $4 for children and seniors and free for ages 2 and younger. Zoo hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For more information, call 424-3344 or go to www.okczoo.com.