JACKSON, NJ—February 19, 2014--Six Flags Great Adventure and Safari’s animal care team has adopted the role of surrogate mother to a pair of playful lion cubs born in January and a single cub born just two weeks ago.
The Safari’s 1,200 exotic animals reside in as natural an environment as possible, and most often mothers take excellent care of their young, explained Dr. Bill Rives, Safari director and chief veterinarian. “From pregnancy through the baby-rearing process, we keep a close watch to make sure all of the animals are healthy, and only intervene when medically necessary.”
The nine-pound baby brothers weighed approximately three pounds at birth January 10. When the Safari’s animal care team realized one of the cubs was in distress shortly after birth, they made the decision to remove both cubs from their mother’s care.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, African lions are considered “vulnerable” with a population trend decreasing. “In the wild, only 20 percent of lion cubs reach their first birthday. It’s common for mothers to abandon sickly cubs, and also to stop caring for a litter containing a single cub,” said Dr. Ken Keiffer, veterinarian at Six Flags Great Adventure. “We wanted to give both cubs the best chance for survival and ensure a successful pride introduction when they are grown, which meant keeping them together,” he said.
The cuddly duo resides in the Safari’s nursery, surrounded by plush toys.
A third cub, the single, male lion born to a first-time mom just two weeks ago, still resides in an incubator in the veterinary clinic. The animal care team rescued the tiny cub when he was abandoned at birth.
“With big cats, mothers don’t always possess the instinct to adequately care for their first litter. If this happens, we immediately intervene,” Dr. Keiffer said.
The three cubs have yet to be named. Six Flags will solicit the help of Facebook fans to name the adorable new additions in an upcoming online poll.
This spring, guests can see the lion cubs on the Safari Off Road Adventure attraction in Camp Aventura. The cubs are expected to spend much of the season there, allowing guests to watch their progress. Then, the trio will be introduced to a larger pride in the Safari’s lion section, Kingsland. When full grown, the three male lions will weigh approximately 500 pounds each. In total, Six Flags Safari is home to 21 lions.
Six Flags’ animal care team is adept at hand-raising exotic animals. From bear cubs to blackbuck calves, the team has devoted countless hours to caring for the Safari’s youngest residents. This spring, a giraffe calf named Josie that was hand-raised by staff in 2013 will make her debut in the African Plains section.
Six Flags Great Adventure and Safari opens for the 2014 season April 12. For more information, visit www.sixflags.com/greatadventure.