SOURCE: Denver Zoo

Denver Zoo

September 16, 2015 15:50 ET

Lion Cubs Born at Denver Zoo

Zoo Asks SCFD Voters for Help in Naming the Pair With Contest

DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - September 16, 2015) - As a thank you to voters who support the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), Denver Zoo is asking residents of the seven-county region to name its two, newborn, African lion cubs through an online contest. The cubs, a male and a female, were born on the morning of Thursday, September 10 to lioness Neliah, and are currently with their mother behind the scenes in the Zoo's Benson Predator Ridge exhibit. Zookeepers are monitoring the family via a closed circuit camera and giving them space during this critical bonding period. They will remain off exhibit during this time.

The first phase of the contest will run from Tuesday, September 15, until Friday, September 25, at noon. Those interested in participating must enter their submissions at and be a resident of one of the following SCFD counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas or Jefferson. Contestants will be asked to recommend a name for each of the two cubs. Zookeepers will choose their two favorites from each county and allow the public to vote on the remaining 14 names during the second phase of the contest, which will be announced at a later date. The two winners will receive a behind-the-scenes tour of Benson Predator Ridge and meet the cubs up-close.

"This is the first time we've had lion cubs at Denver Zoo since 2006, and we are thrilled," says Denver Zoo Vice President of Animal Care Hollie Colahan. "SCFD support is absolutely critical to everything we do here, from protecting endangered species in the wild, to providing outstanding care to newborn lions."

"SCFD funding is incredibly important to our success and accounts for approximately a quarter of our budget annually. We depend on this funding to serve two million people each with impactful programming that inspires a love of science through the wonder of animals," says Senior Director of External Relations Tiffany Barnhart.

The cubs were born in the early morning to parents Neliah and Sango. So far, the mother and cubs are doing great. Zookeepers say they are precocious, moving around frequently, vocalizing and naturally competing when trying to nurse at the same time. Neliah, a first-time mother, has done a wonderful job. Keepers say she is very calm and attentive, regularly grooming the two and allowing them to nurse.

Neliah arrived from Florida's Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in November of last year. The 3-year-old joined the Zoo's young lion pride, with male Sango and female Sabi, both also 3-years-old. Neliah was born at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens on June 30, 2012 and arrived at Denver Zoo through a recommendation of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Sango, the Zoo's only adult male lion, was born on July 28, 2012 at Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin, Texas, and arrived at Denver Zoo in 2013. The cubs are his first offspring, as well.

Lion cubs are born after a relatively short gestation period of between 100 and 110 days, and they come into the world with spotted coats and their eyes closed. Lionesses normally give birth to between two and four cubs. For the first two months, the cubs drink only their mother's milk and are fully weaned by the time they are seven months old.

Rules and Details of Denver Zoo's Lion Cub Naming Contest

  • Denver Zoo is holding a contest online in which residents of the seven-county region will be asked to submit name suggestions for the Zoo's recently born lion cubs, one male and one female.
  • Denver Zoo keepers from its large mammal department will choose their two favorites (one boy name, one girl name) from each of the 7 counties. From there, the public will be asked to select their two favorites from the remaining 14. This means the contest will occur in two phases.
  • Keepers will select their favorite names based on originality and creativity.
  • The first phase of the contest will run from Wednesday, September 15, until Friday, September 25. The second phase will be announced at a later date on social media, once Zoo staff has chosen the final 14 names.
  • There will be two winners, and both people will be awarded a behind-the-scenes tour of Benson Predator Ridge to see the cubs first-hand and given $50 worth of lion-themed merchandise from the Zoo's Kibongi Market.
  • This contest will be held via Facebook.
  • In order to be eligible to participate, contestants must be residents of one of the following counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, or Jefferson.
  • Please note it is free to enter this contest. No purchase is necessary.
  • If more than one contestant enters one of the winning names, both will receive prizes.

About Denver Zoo: Denver Zoo brings education alive, providing a unique learning experience that sparks an interest in the natural world for visitors and program participants alike. Home to 4,300 animals representing more than 600 species, the Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which assures the highest standards of animal care.

Denver Zoo serves two million visitors each year and 350,000 of those guests are provided free access. Denver Zoo's Scholarship fund has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships to schools and families in the past five years. SCFD funding is critical to supporting and expanding these programs, as well supporting the care of 4,300 animals, many of which are endangered or threatened.

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Contact Information

  • Contact:

    Sean Andersen
    (720) 337-1418

    Scott Camp
    (720) 337-1604