TULSA — Sitting on the veterinary clinic floor, zookeeper Amy Pierce bottle-fed one of the 6-week-old lion cubs Thursday, while other staff members oohed and awed from the doorway.
"They’re so cute,” Pierce agreed. Then she asked for a bandage. A cub’s claw had left a minor cut in her thumb. Cute, yes. But still wild. "They’re lions,” said Karen Dunn, the zoo’s curator of large mammals. "Not house pets.” The Tulsa Zoo gave a handful of visitors a first look Thursday at two cubs that were born March 24, the first lions born in Tulsa since 1976. The zoo hasn’t decided what — or even how — to name the cubs. Officials might sponsor a public contest or auction off naming rights. Either way, both cubs will go on exhibit by the end of May. And they seem likely to stay in Tulsa for at least three or four years, Dunn said. After that, it depends on whether lion experts can find suitable mates for them at other zoos.
Parental pairingTheir mother, 7-year-old Shatari, came to Tulsa in 2006 from a zoo in Colorado specifically to breed with Tulsa’s own Kofi. A nationwide species survival plan identified the two as genetically compatible. With fewer than 300 lions in captivity at certified American zoos, researchers must pair up mates carefully to preserve the gene pool.