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Cute lion cubs introduced to the pride at Monarto Safari Park
Four young lions have met the park's older males - with touching results.
Four lion cubs' introduction to the rest of their pride has made for a touching scene at Monarto Safari Park.
The cubs met the park's three male lions last week in a carefully managed meeting that had been weeks in the making.
Keepers had allowed the lions to mingle through a fence for some time, and observed the sniffing, nose-touching and relaxation that showed they were ready to get closer.
As the cubs were set loose – sniffing licking and pawing – the older males reacted with everything from mild bemusement to fright, at times play-fighting gently, at times leaping away from the tiny newcomers.
Carnivore keeper Christy Tonkin said interactions between males and cubs were often "less than friendly" in the wild, so it was pleasing to see them all get along.
"Male lions are often referred to as the king of the savannah, so it was funny to see the males being so wary of the tiny cubs," she said.
"The cubs’ mum, Husani, is a pretty strong lioness so it’s likely the males are avoiding doing the wrong thing by the little ones so they’re not scolded."
The cubs had spent some time alone with their mother after their birth in February, and met females Makena and Nia in early April.
All 10 lions – including brothers Kubwa, Kito and Kashwa – will live together from now on.
About 25,000 to 30,000 African lions remain in the wild, their numbers having fallen due to habitat loss and clashes with humans.
Zoos SA's population is part of a breeding program intended to preserve the majestic species.
Photos: Geoff Brooks/Zoos SA.