It will be a while before the public is able to see her in person – thanks to the shutdown of zoos because of the coronavirus - but Santa Barbara Zoo’s baby lion cub – who was born in November – is doing well.
Two-month-old Pauline – who is yet to be able to have any visitors – is being taken care of by her mom and staff at the zoo since she was born on November 5th at Santa Barbara Zoo.
They call her their pandemic baby because she was conceived during the first lockdown and is being reared during the second one.
Julie Barnes is the Zoo's Vice President of Animal Care and Health.
"We are particularly excited about the lion cub given what the year has been like for everyone. We call her our pandemic baby"
Pauline is the first baby for the zoo’s lions - Felicia and Ralph, and the first lion cub the zoo has welcomed in 15 years. And she’s being lovingly cared for by her mom and the staff at the zoo.
"Felicia is a young mom, she’s only 2 and a half years old – and she's a first time mom. So we knew there was the potential for problems. It’s not unusual for inexperienced young mothers to potentially abandon or neglect their cubs or even to potentially kill them," says Barnes.
However, Pauline's mom Felicia showed "good maternal behaviour," explains Barnes.
Unfortunately, at two weeks the cub needed intensive care for a week, as she wasn't getting enough milk.
She spent a week in the Zoo's hospital and staff were able to get her healthy again before the staff had to take the challenging step of reintroducing her to her mother.
"We really wanted to get her back in contact with the rest of the pride...fortunately everything went according to plan."
She will eventually move back up into the lion enclosure, to be closer to parents Felicia and Ralph…but first, they will have to ‘toddler proof’ the enclosure.
"We have to make sure she can't fall off anything and that there's no deep water around. It's a bit like a toddler learning the world and you tend to hover over them...but we can't hover quite as closely with a lion. You've got to make sure they're not in danger as they learn to navigate their new environment."
No doubt she will be the pride of the Zoo as she grows.