CHICAGO — The Lincoln Park Zoo is celebrating a long birth.
Amid this exciting time, visitors have come from far and wide to catch a glimpse of the young lad who will be king. Born in March, Pilipili is the first cub to arrive at the zoo in some time, 20 years to be exact, says zoo worker Cassie Kutilek.
“We’re really excited,” she said.
Pilipili’s mother, Zari, was pregnant with her baby for almost four months. With a long, manly mane, the cub’s father, Jabari, is always nearby. Zoo workers say courtship between father and mother began after a slow, step-by-step introduction.
“It was instant,” Kutilek said. “When Jabari and Zari met, they were rubbing their cheeks. They were vocalizing. He would call her. She would call him back,” Kutilek said.
Now with a little one to look after, the ever-inquisitive little one can be seen exploring her Savannah-like home inch for inch. Cleo and Hasari, Zari’s two sisters, stand guard not too far away.
The name of the new lion cub is Pilipili, which means pepper in Swahili. It’s also a nod to the new, multimillion-dollar General Pepper Family Wildlife Center at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Raising the Lion King for a Day is a group effort. The sisters intervene quickly when needed. Like Leos in the wild, their daily routines are similar.
“Dawn and dusk they’re active, they’re moving around, they’re training, and then when you get into the heat of the day, whether it’s the heat of Chicago or the heart of Africa, they are just going to sleep,” Kutilek said.
The lion’s diet is 100% protein, consisting of meat and bones.
“So they get shank bones, like bare bones, as we would call them,” Kutilek said. “It’s just a meatless bone, but they also get meaty shank bones straight from the cow. They also enjoy a diet of carnivore meat and other animal-based diets. All meat all the time.
The zoo’s effort is part of a nationwide conservation effort to help big cats.
Amidst the newly renovated zoo compound, what is learned here about their habits, interactions, do’s and don’ts, is shared and applied to help big cats in the wilds of West Africa. Savannah and new homes that are bigger and better.
“This entire environment is 42% larger than the last environment,” Kutilek said.
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