Little lion cub Lindelani, whose African name means “to be patient,” was anything but that Thursday morning as she became the first of her siblings to step into the public spotlight.
Lindelani is one three cubs born seven weeks ago at the Fort Worth Zoo, and a debutante ball was planned for Thursday as the gates of the lions den were opened for the first time since the births.
Mother lion Abagebe, however, quickly led the adventurous baby back into the den when she saw the line of cameras and people — complete with a roar and a growl for effect.
“She is a great mom. She is very protective,” said Lindey Blackney, a mammal keeper at the zoo, adding that the three babies — two girls and a boy — are starting to show their own personalities.
“It will be interesting to see. The fact that she [Lindelani] was the one to venture out — I always thought it would be the bigger ones,” Blackney said. “It will be interesting to see who will take the lead and who will be the most adventurous.”
Abagebe was bred with Jabulani. Both were born at a South African wildlife facility and arrived at the zoo in 2012.
The babies are important to zoos nationwide and to conservation efforts, said Ron Surratt, director of animal collections at the Fort Worth Zoo, because they are a completely new bloodline in the U.S. and Abagebe and Jabulani are not related.
“That is good for the population,” Surratt said. “We want to be self-sustaining as far as our captive population, so it is good for that. But then also it is a hedge against extinction. If something ever has to happen down the road, we will have lions.”
Once found across Africa, throughout Asia and as far west as Greece, lions now live mostly in designated national parks or hunting areas. Only about 30,000 are left in Africa and about 300 in India, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Lindelani is the smallest of the three cubs. Her siblings are Siyanda, a male, whose name means “we are increasing,” and Thabisa, a female, whose name means “bring joy.” The cubs weighed about 2 pounds at birth.
The females could grow to about 250 pounds in adulthood, and Siyanda could reach 375.
“They are going to be very slow coming in and out for the next few days,” Surratt said. “After about a week, they will be out running around playing.”
The zoo has had four African lion litters since 2004, but this is the first for Abagebe and Jabulani.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984
If you go
The zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
The cost is $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and children ages 3-12 and free for toddlers. Parking is $5. Admission is half-price every Wednesday.
Girl: Lindelani (pronounced lynn-de-LAH-nee)
Girl: Thabisa (thaw-BEE-sa)
Boy: Siyanda (see-YAWN-duh)
Mom: Abagebe (ah-bah-gay-bay)
Dad: Jabulani (jah-boo-lawn-e)