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Three lion cubs debut at the Johannesburg Zoo

After five years of fruitless breeding efforts, the Johannesburg Zoo finally welcomed three new lion cubs to its menagerie of species. Born in April at a private game farm in Thabazimbi, the triplets arrived at the zoo last month but spent a few weeks in quarantine before making their debut today, August 27. The Johannesburg Zoo received the cubs as a donation from the farm. In fact, this zoo is the first one to have ever successfully bred white lions in captivity.

The Johannesburg Zoo debuted their three new lion cubs on Wednesday.
Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

"We are so excited to have the lion cubs. It has been over five years since the zoo has had cubs and our adult lions are aging,” shared the zoo’s big feline curator Agnes Maluleke, “These cubs of a new bloodline will ensure the continuation of the species in our collection.”

The male lion in the trio, Letaba, is the only one of his siblings born with a rare white coat, which he inherited from his parents’ recessive genes. However, there is no denying how adorable Letaba’s two sisters, Sabi and Jubba, are even if they don’t have a special coat. During their debut today, Letaba batted at a video camera in the enclosure while one of his sisters playfully taunted reporters, growling softly and leaping towards them

“The white one [Letaba] is a leader and he’s very playful,” commented Maluleke, “But he plays very rough because he’s actually thinking we’re all lions and we have fur to protect our skin, so you need to be very careful around them.”

The new enclosure built for Letaba, Sabi, and Jubba is separate from the eleven adult lions already living at the facility. Maluleke explained, "We can't put our lion cubs with the big ones because they will definitely kill them.”

Typically, lions live for 10-14 years in the wild. The eleven adult lions at the Johannesburg Zoo, who live in the AngloGold Lion Enclosure exhibit, are between the ages of 13 and 16.