The Pride of Billabong Zoo

The Billabong Zoo team are proud to announce that our African Lions, Misty and Milo have become proud parents... AGAIN!

On the 4th of January 2019, at 2am big cat keepers were woken from their sleep by the noisy (but wonderful) squawk of a new born cub.  Keepers Brooke and Christy had camped out in the room next to the lions in preparation for Misty going into labour.

“We actually didn’t think anything was going to happen that night”, keeper Christy said.  “The first time with our older cub Amari, Misty kept us waiting for a week.  When she was ready, she was very clear with Milo when she wanted her space to give birth, and wouldn’t allow him into the den.”

“But not this time! She was so calm and relaxed and kept Milo around.  When we woke to the cub noise and checked the cameras he was lying right beside Misty as she cleaned the cub up.  He even took his turn to clean the new cub.”

Keepers were very careful to keep their distance to ensure that mother and cubs were not disturbed.  It wasn’t until they needed to feed Misty the following night that they discovered there were in fact 3 cubs.

They also decided that it was best to mimic the natural wild behaviour of the lions, whereby the mother would retreat from the pride and keep the cubs in seclusion for the first 6 to 8 weeks of their life.

“This means we are at the stage now of allowing Misty and the cubs to re-join with Milo.  We have the added challenge of also needing to integrate Amari, our 6-month-old, hand raised cub to the pride.” Christy explains, “Many people will remember that with Amari, we had a lot of problems. Misty’s milk dried up and she came back into oestrus and then struggled to rear Amari.  We had to step in and help her out.”

“All of her issues though were related to changes in her hormones after losing Amari’s brother, Zuberi.  It was so amazing that once she was pregnant again, she just clicked back into mother mode. She’s now incredibly protective of Amari and really dotes on him, and you can see how much he loves being part of a pride.”

Milo is still getting used to all the changes in his new family and keepers are taking it slow in getting all the lions back together.  “The first step is to get Amari in with Misty and the cubs, and then we’ll introduce Milo.”

All the cubs have passed their first vet check with flying colours. Dr Chris Simmonds is pleased with their development and administered the first of their vaccinations, and just like with any family pet, each cub has a microchip as a lifelong identification.

Misty is proving to be an excellent mother as Christy describes the moment, she had complete faith that the lioness knew exactly what she was doing. 

“As we were keeping our contact to an absolute minimum, our first chance to visually check the cubs was at feed time.  I became concerned when I noticed one cub a lot less active than the others, it just didn’t seem to be doing well.  As I began to take a lot more notice of Misty’s behaviour via the cameras we installed, I watched her single out this weaker cub and feed (her as it turned out) by herself.  There were even times when I saw Misty tuck the two stronger cubs in the corner behind her back so the little one would have no competition for the teats, and the others still had Mummy to cuddle up to.”

“After a week or so I couldn’t pick any difference between them, the little cub had improved and was just as feisty as her siblings.”

So, what’s next for Misty and Milo? Well, she’ll have her paws full raising the new cubs for the next 12-18 months. In the short term, Dr Chris intends to implant Misty with a contraceptive to allow her a break from breeding for a few years, after which another litter might be considered.

The new arrivals are as follows:

Female “Zoraya” meaning “African Princess

Female “Nuru” meaning “Light” (this little girl is much lighter in colour than the others.)

Male “Kiros” meaning “The King

“We aim to have the cubs accustomed to public display by Easter” says Christy, “but in the mean time we’ll be giving them the option to wander out if they choose during the day so it is possible to catch a glimpse of the tiny trio from here on in. As we figure out their routine and best viewing times, we’ll post updates on our Billabong Zoo Facebook page so you can keep up to date.  

We’d like to say a big thank you to our regular visitors who were concerned about Misty’s absence from presentations during her maternity leave.  We love that you love our lions as much as we do.”