Kamaria and Ilanga, two 2-year-old lion sisters at the Idaho Falls Zoo. On Tuesday they will be headed to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

Two 2-year-old African lion sisters at the Idaho Falls Zoo, Kamaria and Ilanga, will be headed to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo on Tuesday to join the pride there.

Hondo, the young male lion born at the zoo in 2017, will stay in Idaho Falls with his mother Kimani, who is 17 and past breeding age. The average life expectancy of a captive lion is 15 to 20 years, and the tentative plan is when Kimani dies, the Species Survival Plan, a scientific committee that works with zoos to help preserve threatened and endangered species such as the African lion through breeding, will assign a mate or mates to the Idaho Falls Zoo to join Hondo. Wild African lion numbers have fallen 40 percent over the past 30 years.

“While we’ll miss them, we always knew the day would come when some members of our lion family would leave our zoo,” said General Curator Darrell Markum.

Also, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums announced recently that its independent Accreditation Commission has accredited the Idaho Falls Zoo.

The zoo was first accredited in 1998, the first zoo in Idaho to be. The Zoo Boise is also an Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited zoo now. The accreditation has to be renewed every five years. The process includes an application, interviews with zoo officials and an on-site inspection where inspectors observe all aspects of a facility’s operation, including animal care, keeper training, educational, conservation and veterinary programs and safety for visitors, staff and animals.

“All of us at the Idaho Falls Zoo are extremely proud of our accreditation with AZA, and you as citizens in our great community should be proud as well,” said Zoo Director David Pennock. “Know that when you visit the Idaho Falls Zoo, you can feel good knowing you are supporting a zoo that meets the highest standards in animal welfare, education, and conservation. The Idaho Falls zoo is indeed the ‘best little zoo in the west.’”

The inspection team said they were especially impressed with the zoo’s new William J. Maeck Education Center, with the planned future expansion of the zoo and with the zoo’s Quarters for Conservation Program, which puts a portion of zoo admissions into local and global conservation initiatives.

The zoo bought some adjoining land from Bonneville County last year, and is in the process of trying to buy the former 4-H building next to the zoo and another acre of adjoining land, said Parks and Recreation Director P.J. Holm.

“We want to extend our zoo into being a year-round facility, and also just expand the opportunities and experience for folks visiting and spending time at the zoo to have an even better and bigger experience when they’re there,” he said.

Holm said there aren’t any specific plans for the land yet but they want to have it available for future expansion. He said zoo officials hope to use the 4-H building for staff offices and to provide a space for the Tautphaus Park Zoological Society to make it easier to work them on fundraising and other activities.

Mayor Rebecca Casper said the accreditation demonstrates the zoo’s commitment to protecting and preserving wildlife and the environment.

“To be accredited means that the zoo meets very high standards for animal care and a commitment to protecting our planet’s wild animals,” Casper said. “It’s also an extension of our overall education goals. We intend to provide exceptional experiences for our zoo guest about the animals, their habitat and how to preserve them for future generations.”

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.