CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The African lion, Imani, welcome three new cubs late Thursday.
Three-year-old Imani had been on 24-hour baby watch since Saturday.
According to the Cincinnati Zoo, the first cub emerged at 3:30 p.m. Two hours later, a second cub was born and then the third cub arrived shortly after.
Zoo officials say that Imani cleaned the cubs and allowed them to crawl all over her and assumed the optional position to allow them to nurse after they were born.
"Mom and cubs appear to be doing well this morning. Imani, for a first time mom, is doing all the right things. The cubs are active and alert and everything is moving in a positive direction." said Bob Lessnau, Cincinnati Zoo's Director of Animal Collections in a release.
On Oct. 28, Imani started packing on pounds, fueling speculation that she might be pregnant, but officials couldn't give Imani a pregnancy test. Bill Swanson, Director of Animal Research at the zoo's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), says ultrasound was not an option for Imani.
"It's been nearly 15 years since we've seen African lion cubs at the Cincinnati Zoo. We couldn't be happier to have cubs so soon after John and Imani were put together," said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo in a release.
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.
Zoo officials say a lion mother would keep her cubs secluded in a sheltered location in the wild. Imani will stay with her cubs in a den area for the next few months. The timeline for reuniting John with the pride depends on a number of factors. Keepers will monitor the behavior of the inexperienced parents to determine when introductions will take place.
According to the zoo, visitors will get to see the new cubs in a few months when temperatures allow.
On Oct 27, 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.
Once the gender of the cubs is determined, the Zoo will be asking the public for name suggestions!