They look adorably cute and cuddly, but these lion cubs made headlines during their daring escape from Taronga Zoo earlier this month.
Chaos erupted when four of the cubs and their father escaped their enclosure for nearly three hours.
This week on Taronga Who’s who in the zoothe documentary looks back at where it all began, including the nerve-wracking moment the cubs first met their father Ato.
Stream all episodes of Taronga: Who’s Who in the Zoo for free on 9Now.
When zookeepers brought the Ato and Maya lions together, the goal was always to increase the population of the dwindling species.
But they got more than they expected when they discovered that Maya had given birth to five lion cubs.
“Oh my God, I never thought she would have five,” exclaimed a zookeeper after making the discovery.
From birth, staff began to “monitor around the clock” to make sure everything from feeding to grooming was going well for the little ones.
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Maya certainly had her paws full with five cubs and while a big litter is great news, “having female cubs to mother their own prides one day is crucial to the success of the breeding program.”
Meanwhile, keepers stayed away from Maya and the cubs to let them bond, which meant an anxious 12-day wait to find out the sex of the cubs.
But the nerves went away when keepers discovered that three of the five cubs were female. You can watch the moment in the video above.
“The future of the breeding program looks very bright,” explained Naomi Watts, narrator of the documentary.
And the news only got better from there.
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“Their weights are wonderful, they fluctuate between 5.5 and 6.5 kilos,” said Louise, the lion manager.
“It’s just fantastic for such a large range.”
With everything looking good for the little ones, there was only one thing left to do: introduce them to their father Ato.
The Guardians were nervous as they anticipated Ato’s reaction and they had a plan in place in case things went wrong.
If Ato got aggressive with the cubs they were ready with a hose and as a last resort they had a fire extinguisher on standby if any of the cubs were in imminent danger of being killed.
But Ato acted exactly as Louise expected.
“He was very worried, he was very hesitant,” she said as Ato entered the enclosure with the cubs.
“There were a few times where he was a bit harsh on the little ones.”
But mom Maya was on the defense in case Ato wasn’t on her best behavior. You can watch what happened at their first family reunion in the video above.
Watch all of “Lion Pride” Episode 4 and more from Season 3 of Taronga Who’s Who in the Zoo on 9Now.