Purr-fect names for playful lion cubs

18 August 2023

Werribee Open Range Zoo’s precious trio of 10-week-old lion cubs now have names.

The monikers were chosen via an online naming competition where more than 360,000 Zoos Victoria members and donors had the opportunity to cast their vote. The highest polling names are Mwezi [pronounced: Mw-e-zee], Kianga [pronounced: Kee-ang-uh] and Jango [pronounced: Jan-go].

Werribee Open Range Zoo African River Trail Keeper Ben Gulli said the names are from languages used in the African regions where wild lions are found and the names align with the Werribee Zoo lion cubs’ individual personalities.

“The name Mwezi – meaning moon in Swahili – has been given to one of the male cubs because the litter was born during the evening of a full moon,” Mr Gulli said.

“The name Kianga – meaning sunshine in Swahili – has been given to the female cub because she’s very bright and picks things up really quickly.

“The name Jango – meaning brave in Xhosa – has been given to the second male cub because he’s extremely confident in exploring on his own.”

Mr Gulli said the cubs are continuing to grow in both size and confidence.

“The cubs are continuing to take opportunities to explore beyond the comforts of their den, venturing into their pride’s habitat,” Mr Gulli said. “This is now extending up to one hour a day Like many other newborns, they tire very quickly but the amount of time they explore and play will increase as they build their strength and resilience in the coming weeks and months.

“This phased approach is part of a specially designed plan that aims to replicate how lion cubs integrate with their environment and pride members in the wild.”

Viewing opportunities for Zoo visitors are still extremely limited. Zoo members and visitors are encouraged to continue to check Zoos Victoria’s website and social channels - zoo.org.au and @zoosvictoria - for updates about when the cubs will be visible for extended periods of time.

African lions are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, with their population declining to around only 39,000 in the wild in sub-Saharan Africa. The species is facing threats including human-wildlife conflict, poaching and habitat destruction.

The lion pride at Werribee Open Range Zoo is part of the Australasian zoo breeding and conservation program. Breeding and reproduction has significant long-term health and behavioural benefits for female lions, while raising cubs also provides opportunities for lifelong learning for the pride.

Werribee Open Range Zoo visitors have the opportunity to see father Sheru [pronounced: Sher-oo], adult lioness Asali [pronounced: A-sa-lee] and, on occasion, mother Nilo [pronounced: Nee-lo] along the Zoo’s African River Trail.