The Idaho Falls Zoo family has grown a little bigger and a little more furry recently.
Two female African lions, Kamaria, meaning the moon, and Ilanga, the sun, were born on July 18, but Thursday was their first day on public display.
Named after the recent solar eclipse that swept across the United States, the 16-pound cubs will call the zoo home for the next one to three years until they’re paired up with other lions to breed at zoos around the country.
“They are genetically valuable animals,” said Dallas LaDucer, a zookeeper that looks after the large carnivores at the Idaho Falls Zoo. In 2016lions were placed on the the United States’ Endangered Species list.
At 14, their mother Kimani had been considered a “grandma” and zoo officials were unsure if she would ever have cubs, but in February she gave birth to Hondo, a male. When Kimani began overly cleaning a wound on Hondo — a lion’s tongue can rip meat from bone — zookeepers separated the two and began hand-raising the cub to prevent infection. The separation put Kimani back into heat leading to her second pregnancy after just six months, a rare occurrence since lions typically wait several years before having another litter, according to LaDucer .
Keepers eventually will have the whole family together on display but they are taking it slow. At 6-months-old Hondo weighs 100-pounds and the keepers have been letting him meet his little sisters through fencing to let them become accustomed to one another and prevent any sort of aggression.
The cubs will be on display unless otherwise noted but be warned they do like to bed down in their cave. “Just like any toddler they’re really active and rambunctious for a little while then they need to zonk out for an hour or two,” LaDucer said.
The zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until the regular zoo season ends Oct. 8.