In wholesome and exciting news, the healthy litter of three sweet lion cubs at Werribee Open Range Zoo now have names. Say hello to Mwezi (pronounced Mw-e-zee), Kianga (pronounced Kee-ang-uh) and Jango (pronounced Jan-go). These names are from languages used in the African regions were wild lions are found, and the names also align with the personalities of the lion cubs. This litter was the first of the threatened species to be born at the Zoo in almost six years. They were born to Nilo, aged 11, and pride male Sheru, aged 5.
Lion cubs at Werribee Open Range Zoo
Mwezi means moon in Swahili, and was given to one of the male cubs because the litter was born during the evening of a full moon. Meanwhile, Jango, which means brave in Xhosa, was given to the second male cub because he’s confidently exploring on his own. Finally, the name Kianga means sunshine in Swahili, and was given to the female cub because “she’s very bright and picks things up really quickly”, according to Werribee Open Range Zoo African River Trail Keeper Ben Gulli.
“The cubs are continuing to take opportunities to explore beyond the comforts of their den, venturing into their pride’s habitat,” said Gulli. “This is now extending up to one hour a day. Like many newborns, they tire very quickly but the amount of time they explore and play will increase as they build their strength and resilience in the coming weeks and months.”
Viewing opportunities for Zoo visitors are still limited. This gradual approach is a part of a plan that aims to replicate how lion cubs integrate with their environment and pride members in the wild. If you’d like to see the lion cubs, keep an eye on the Zoos Victoria website and social media channels for updates about when the cubs will be visible.
More about the parents
Mother Nilo arrived at Werribee Open Range Zoo in June 2014, after living in Givskud Zoo in Denmark. Meanwhile, father Sheru travelled to Werribee from Sydney Zoo in March 2022 to establish a new breeding pride. Her pregnancy lasted for three months, and the litter was born at the start of June. You can see father Sheru and adult lioness Asali on the Zoo’s African River Trail. On occasion, mother Nilo will also make an appearance.
African lions are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Their population has declined to only 23,000 to 39,000 remaining in the wild in sub-Saharan Africa. Threats include human-wildlife conflict, poaching and habitat destruction.
The lion pride in Werribee is part of the Australasian zoo breeding and conservation program.
“Breeding and reproduction have significant long-term health and behavioural benefits for a lioness, while raising cubs also provides opportunities for lifelong learning for the pride,” said Dr Mark Pilgrim, Werribee Open Range Zoo Director.
Find out more about visiting Werribee Open Range Zoo here.