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July 11, 2014, 1:27 am

Philly Zoo welcomes new African lion

The Philadelphia Zoo just welcomed another addition with the arrival of African lion Makini — which means “dignity” in Swahili, to the First Niagara Big Cat Falls exhibit. This big cat, born in March 2009, came from the Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum and is settling well into his new environment.

Makini came to the Philadelphia Zoo on a Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommendation. SSP is a program that maintains a list of species, complete with their heritage, that are selected and bred for optimum genetic diversity. Assuming the animal is, or will be extinct in the wild, the goal is to manage a completely sustainable population within zoos alone. Makini will be joined by a female lion in February with plans to breed them to create another lion pride at America’s first Zoo. The big cat will time share space with the Zoo’s original African lion pride.

“The Philadelphia Zoo is thrilled to welcome to our First Niagara Big Cat Falls family Makini a young male lion, the leader of the next generation of the Philadelphia Lion pride. Makini is joining us from the Tulsa Zoo in Oklahoma where he was one of two brothers who were born there after 16 years of having no births. We are excited to start our new pride journey with Makini,” Tammy Schmidt, Curator of Carnivores said.

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 this species is likely to become endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve. For updates on the Zoo’s new lions or to ADOPT a lion, log on to philadelphiazoo.org, and follow us on facebook.com/philadelphiazoo.