Busch Gardens Tampa will soon have three new furry additions. The lion cubs -- two 3-month-old female sisters and an unrelated 4-month-old male -- came from South Africa on May 18.
The sister cubs were recently named through an online poll on the Busch Gardens Facebook page. Fans chose the names Shaba meaning "brazen," and Shtuko meaning "twitch."
Zoo Curator Laura Wittish said these names fit the sisters perfectly. Shaba, weighing in at a hefty 26 lbs, is not afraid to playfully pounce on her sister. The smaller sister Shtuko, who's 21.8 lbs, lives up to her name with a constant twitching tail.
The largest cub of the group is the male, Kembe, who weighs 38.2 pounds. The name Kembe signifies a small town in Africa.
All three cubs have genetic lines from the Kalahari and Kruger regions of South Africa. Lions from these regions are known for their massive size and dark, striking manes on the males.
The trainers and staff at Busch Gardens are thrilled to have the new cubs because they bring fresh, new blood lines to the United States. When the cubs are old enough, both Shaba and Shtuko, will mate with Kembe to advance these blood lines.
Wittish said mating the cubs is extremely important because of the declining population in Africa. Currently there are only about 30,000 lions left in the world.
Now, the cubs reside in a small, contained area of the park, but will move into the "Edge of Africa" lion and hyena habitat this week…just in time for the Fourth of July.