Zoo Takes Pride in New Lion

Makini, a male African lion born in March 2009 at the Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum in Oklahoma, has arrived at his new home, the Philadelphia Zoo. He is on public view as he gets used to his new lair in the First Niagara Big Cat Falls exhibit.

Makini, whose name means "dignity" in Swahili, came to the Philadelphia Zoo through the Species Survival Plan. The program maintains a list of species that are selected and bred for optimum genetic diversity. The goal is to manage a completely sustainable population within zoos alone. He was one of two brothers born at the Tulsa Zoo after 16 years of no lion births there.

"We are excited to start our new pride journey with Makini,” says Tammy Schmidt, curator of carnivores. A female lion is expected to join Makini in February with hopes to breed them to create another lion pride at America’s First Zoo. 

The big cat and his February mate will time share space with the Zoo’s original African lion pride, which consists of one male, Merlin, and three females, Zenda, Jezebel and Vinkel. All four arrived at the Zoo in 1993 from the Johannesburg Zoo in South Africa.

Most lions now live in eastern and southern Africa, and their numbers there are rapidly decreasing. The most significant threat to the species includes habitat loss and conflicts with humans.

African lions are listed as a vulnerable species, meaning that they are likely to become endangered unless circumstances threatening their survival and reproduction improve.

Makini is expected to meet the public during the week of Jan. 23.

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