CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is on baby bump watch!
The zoo's three-year-old lion, Imani, has been packing on the pounds, fueling speculation that she might be pregnant.
According to zoo officials, they will only know for sure if she is pregnant when, and if, she gives birth, which would happen sometime this November.
Why can't they just give her a pregnancy test? Bill Swanson, Director of Animal Research at the zoo's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), says ultrasound is not an option for Imani.
However, he says, "elevated levels of progesterone in fecal samples and the presence of relaxing in urine provide presumptive evidence of pregnancy."
But one of the lion's keepers, Wendy Rice, says sometimes lions can experience symptoms of pregnancy without actually being pregnant.
"For this reason, we are not saying Imani's pregnant!" Rice said. "Instead, we are saying Imani might be pregnant!"
According to the zoo, Imani was born at the St. Louis Zoo in July 2011 and came to Cincinnati after the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Program (SSP) recommended her transfer for breeding purposes.
Imani was introduced to one of the Cincinnati zoo's male lions, John, earlier this year. The zoo says they have matched well since their introduction.
John was born at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. and was the only male in a group of cubs called 'The Magnificent Seven.' They were given that name since the average litter size for these lions is two to six.
According to officials, these lions are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to climate change, hunting and habitat loss.
As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduced a proposal on Monday that would list the African lion as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.