IDAHO FALLS — The two newest lion cubs at the Idaho Falls zoo are finally on display for the public.
Baby girls Ilanga and Kamaria have been gradually introduced to the public this month. On Thursday, they were on display for all of the media joined by their mother Kimani and their father Dahoma.
The girls were named in advanced in conjunction with this year’s total Solar Eclipse. The names have African origin — Ilanga means sun in Zulu and Kamaria is a Swahili name associated with the moon.
Ilanga and Kamaria were born in July making this Kimani’s second litter in one year. This spring she gave birth to her first cub, Hondo.
“We would consider her a grandma lion at this point, so when she had one individual male cub earlier this spring we were excited,” zookeeper Dallas LaDucer said.
Parents Kimani and Dahoma were specifically paired up years ago by genetic makeup to reproduce. At 14 years old the mama lion hasn’t been able to reproduce at any point in her life. These cubs could be considered her miracle babies, zoo officials said.
“The same mom and dad had two litters in one season and that’s pretty rare, that would kind of be unheard of,” LaDucer said.
Although having two litters in a year is unheard of, having twins is not. LaDucer said lions may have an average of two to four cubs at a time.
Zookeepers said the lions are on schedule for their vaccinations and introductions to other members of the lion pride. Now that they’ve been introduced to dad, big brother Hondo is next.
“He is quite a bit bigger than these little cubs they are only about 15 to 20 pounds he’s over 100. We want to make sure that they are all getting along really well before we just put them all together,” LaDucer said. “Lions are the only species of cat that is social and they have very specific pride dynamics so we want to make sure this all goes well, so we’re taking it nice and slow.”
Resident Alyce Young brings her grandson to the zoo almost every Thursday. She said it’s been a treat to see many baby animals at the zoo grow up this year.
“Everybody needs to come to the zoo more often so they can see all the fun things, all the babies,” Young said.
LaDucer they don’t anticipate Kimani having any more cubs, and would, in fact, try to prevent her. He said in the wild she would typically be done reproducing because of her age. As for her three offspring, they will be at the zoo for several years until they’re genetically matched and sent to other zoos to reproduce.
The baby lions will be on exhibit off and on until the zoos closing date on Oct. 5. The Idaho Falls Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“By the time we’re open again in the spring, these girls will be well over 100 pounds so we’ll have a whole herd full of teenagers instead of little tiny babies,” LaDucer said.