Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s African lions, Kiki and Chisulo, are expecting their first litter of cubs together – and the first at the zoo in nearly 50 years, the zoo announced Friday.
“We used a specially designed bench to perform the ultrasounds on Kiki,” zoo curator Nicole Presley said in a news release. “When Kiki is positioned correctly on the bench, one person is able to feed her while another person can safely position themselves under her and use the ultrasound probe to get an image.”
Kiki is due in early October but confirmation of her pregnancy was hard to come by, the zoo said. It took several months of positive-reinforcement training to make Kiki comfortable with the ultrasound.
“She was such a rock star throughout her training and once we had the positioning figured out, she was very accepting of the ultrasound probe,” Presley said. “Prior to using these training methods, lion pregnancy was not a known certainty unless the lion was anesthetized and an ultrasound or X-ray was performed. Now, we can take away that risk by using positive reinforcement training.”
The zoo said lion litters generally range from two to four cubs. It’s unknown how many cubs Kiki is carrying.
The last time lions were born at the zoo was in 1968. The newborns join quite a nursery: In June, the zoo announced 12 newborns of wolves, lemurs and warthogs.
Kiki, 12, came to Fresno in June 2015 from Zoo Atlanta along with her daughter, Zamaya, 2. This will be her third litter of cubs.
Chisulo, 2, came to Fresno in November 2015 from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington. This will be his first litter.