LOXAHATCHEE — It seems gender reveals always look to outdo the one before, from colored cakes, to fireworks and even smoke bombs, all of them captured on Instagram. So who's to stop the king and queen of the jungle from taking a turn?
Lion Country Safari held a gender-reveal celebration on Friday to welcome their newest baby lion cub, the first born since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Keepers led the dad, Vander, and the cub's uncle, Boone, from the night house where the lions sleep and let out into their enclosure. An enrichment toy awaited them.
It was a painted box that had pink and blue stripes that sat on a table with had food and other goodies for the lions. Boone dashed straight toward the box, playing with it and knocking it over, while Vander wandered about. As soon as Boone knocked it over, pink-painted ostrich eggs spilled out — revealing that the new cub is a girl!
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Two-month old Mashika — which is Swahili for "born during the rainy season" — was born on July 13 to parents Leela and Vander, literally to sounds — if not roars — of approval from the other nine lions at the animal preserve.
"We brought the cub out for a really quick physical exam, and the cub did actually hear members of the pride calling, so it was pretty excited to hear the rest of the pride," said Haley McCann, Lion Country Safari spokeswoman.
"The cub is really healthy and doing really well, and is in great hands here under the care of not only our professionals but also mom."
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The lions are the only animals in Lion Country Safari who have enclosures as they are a Class 1 animal meaning they are a predator atop the food chain. Lions are the only predators in the park, and any other animals that the zoo has in their care, according to McCann, are considered their prey.
Mashika is now one of 10 other lions at the zoo and her birth marks a milestone not just for the park but for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan. African Lions are considered a threatened species, so across the nation, zoos are working to protect the ones they care for and continue their lineages.
"So our participation in a number of conservation efforts such as the species survival plan, which is the conservation breed program for threatened and endangered species, is really important to continue the long term survival of this species," said McCann.
Lion Country Safari visitors may be able to see Mashika in weeks ahead
In the wild, lions face threats like habitat loss and loss of prey as those species also lose their own habitats, a big factor being climate change.
There are other dangers such as increasing human populations, which causes the lions to spread out further and further and can lead to retaliation killings. As lions lose prey species, they may come upon domesticated species they end up hunting, and then humans retaliate and kill those lions that eat their livestock.
To further the species, Lion Country Safari has a specific process when they find a good genetic match among their lions and want to introduce them so they may breed. They monitor behavior and genetic makeup and do a lot of background work before they decide to pair their lions.
At the night house, they place the male and female lion in side by side enclosures so they can smell each other and get comfortable, and if all things go according to plan, a baby lion is soon to follow, like Mashika, McCann said.
Baby Mashika is staying with mom for now at the night house and will soon be introduced to her aunts and any other female lions in the pride.
It's not fully known when she will be out in the enclosure, since its based on Leela's schedule, but McCann suspects that guests will get to see Mashika in the coming weeks as they drive through the 600-acre preserve.
Arianna Otero is a breaking news reporter for The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at email@example.com or on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, at @ari_v_otero. Support local journalism: Subscribe today.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Lion Country Safari has a gender reveal celebration for new lion cub