The Santa Barbara Zoo’s new female African lion cub has been named Pauline.
Born to the zoo’s female African lion Felicia and sired by its male, Ralph, Pauline’s name was announced in a press release on Tuesday.
Currently, Pauline remains separated from her parents as she gets nursed with a bottle and restored to a healthy weight after experiencing a health scare less than a week ago. According to the press release, Pauline was not receiving enough milk from Felicia and became hypoglycemic and hypothermic as a result. She was moved to the veterinary hospital for intensive care, where she received fluid therapy and started bottle feeding.
According to Santa Barbara Zoo Vice President of Animal Care and Health Dr. Julie Barnes, Pauline has been responding well to her treatment.
Zoo CEO and President Rich Block said he and other members of the zoo’s staff are “relieved” that the cub has recovered and thanked the zoo’s animal care team for taking care of Pauline when she needed it most.
Once Pauline finishes hospital care, she will be moved back into the lion holding area so she can be near her parents. Dr. Barnes said fully reintroducing Pauline to her parents after being separated from them in the hospital will be a challenge, even more so than usual because Pauline is Felicia’s first cub.
“The likelihood of success is not as good with an inexperienced mother,” Dr. Barnes said.
Dr. Barnes stated in the release that Felicia bonded very quickly with Ralph, who arrived at the zoo in May. Pairing the two lions was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums as part of its Species Survival Plan for maintaining a sustainable population of lions in North America.
“As lion populations have been steadily declining in the wild, we’re proud to be a part of the conservation efforts of these majestic animals and to know that these lions are a successful breeding pair,” Dr. Barnes said.
If Pauline is able to be fully reintroduced immediately, it would only be to her mother as reintroducing her to a fully-grown male lion could be very dangerous.
Being parent-reared is the best possible option for a lion cub, so Dr. Barnes and the zoo’s animal care staff will attempt to reintroduce Pauline to Felicia once the cub is well enough. However, in the event that Felicia doesn’t take Pauline back, zoo staff will hand-rear the cub in close proximity to the mother. While they’ll be separated, Pauline and her parents will still be able to see of each other. Dr. Barnes explained that this is important because lion cubs who are hand-raised by humans without any connection with other adult or cub lions tend to end up with behavioral issues when they grow up.
Should reintroducing Pauline to Felicia immediately not be possible, Pauline would be raised in proximity of her parents and within sight of them, but not physically connected within the enclosure. With this arrangement, zoo staff will monitor how Pauline’s parents respond to the cub.
While reintroducing a cub to its mother first is the usual course of action, Dr. Barnes said there actually are sometimes instances where the father responds better to the cub.
“There have been situations where the male has actually been the better case for reintroduction than the female,” she said.
Whichever parent is the better one for a delayed reintroduction, Pauline will not be reintroduced to them until she has grown to between 3 to 6 years of age.
For now, the primary concern of zoo staff is for Pauline to continue gaining strength and putting on weight. According to the press release, the cub and her mother will be “behind the scenes” for approximately eight weeks before making their official public debut, viewing information for which will be announced when it becomes available.