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Aslan and Azizi-1UPDATE: Officials at the Racine Zoo announced at 9:45 a.m. that Azizi gave birth to two cubs this morning, but she wasn’t quite done and hours later she gave birth to a third cub — five hours later.

“Typically lion cubs are born about an hour and a half apart,” said Theresa Donarski, the Zoo’s curator of conservation and animal care. “It’s very unusual for a cub to be born so much later than its siblings so naturally we were concerned.”

The only issue during the birth, Azizi decided to have her babies outside of the special birthing area they created.

“We’ve had to adjust the way we monitor the cubs since we cannot rely on the cameras this time around,” Donarski, curator conservation and animal care, Racine Zoo said. “We’re still able to keep a good eye on them!”

“The cubs are nursing and calling for their mother, which are great signs,” Donarski added. “In fact, the cubs are calling so loud, guests will likely be able to hear them within the historic Vanishing Kingdom building!”

“We are happy both Azizi and her two cubs seem to be doing well,” said Jay Christie, Zoo president and chief executive officer. “This is a great day for the Racine Zoo and the City of Racine.”

Original story: Staff at the Racine Zoo are on lion cub watch as Azizi, a female Transvaal lion, will be giving birth any day now.

This is the third litter of lion cubs to be born at the zoo, but Azizi is a first time mom. Aslan, the zoo’s male lion, is once again going to be a father.

“There’s no question Aslan has proved he’s a great father, evident through his interactions with previous litters,” said Jay Christie, president and chief executive officer of the zoo. “Since this is Azizi’s first litter, we are cautiously optimistic everything will go as planned, hopefully without complications.”

To prepare for the birth, zoo staff have separated the two lions — Aslan is housed in an area where he’ll have access to Big Cat Canyon, an outdoor exhibit while Azizi will remain in Vanishing Kingdom, the indoor exhibit.

Azizi will give birth in a special cubbing den located just outside the public exhibit.

“The average gestation period for Transvaal lions is 109 days,” said Theresa Donarski, Racine Zoo curator of conservation and animal care. “Between her 38-pound weight gain, her impatient demeanor, and other signs, we expect things to start happening soon.

“We are anxious and excited all at the same time!”

After the birth, the lion cubs will be quarantined about six weeks.

Johnson Bank, the presenting sponsor of the “Pride of Racine,” helped bring them to Racine over 20 years ago. The bank will sponsor a contest to name the cubs and host several events to celebrate the cubs arrival.

The Racine Zoo works with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species

The Racine Zoo is open  from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. year round.

Members and children two and under: free, children two to 15: $6, seniors: $7, and adults: $8. Racine County residents take $1 off with valid photo I.D.


Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.

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