SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - It's a girl! The Santa Barbara Zoo announced Tuesday that the lion cub born earlier this month is a female. The cub's name is Pauline.
Pauline was born Nov. 5 to parents Felicia and Ralph. The cub is the child of the two adult lions and the first lion born at the zoo since 2005.
The name Pauline was chosen due to its importance to the Mozilo family, a premier sponsor of both the cub and her parents.
The zoo said things were touch and go with Pauline for the first few weeks of her life. On Nov. 19, she became "critically ill" due to a lack of milk from the mother. She was then moved to the zoo's intensive care unit of the veterinary hospital. She has been in an incubator and received fluid therapy and bottle feeding as part of the treatment.
The zoo says the first month of a newborn lion's life are particularly difficult.
“The first month of a lion cub’s life is precarious in terms of survival, particularly when born to a first-time mother,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, the Zoo’s Vice President of Animal Care & Health. “Felicia is a young first-time mother and this situation that has occurred with her cub is not uncommon with inexperienced mothers."
Barnes says the cub will remain in the hospital for a little while longer before returning back to the lion holding area to be near her parents. She will continue to be bottle fed until she is weaned, Barnes said.
Zoo staff members were suspicious that Felicia was pregnant based off of some "physical changes and fecal hormone analysis." Felicia and Ralph bonded almost immediately, the zoo said. The two lions arrived to the Santa Barbara Zoo in May on a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The zoo had been without lions since the passing of Chadwick last year.
“We were encouraged from the very beginning to see how quickly and easily Felicia and Ralph bonded, and observed them breeding frequently as soon as they were introduced,” said Barnes. “As lion populations have been steadily declining in the wild, we’re proud to be a part of the conservation efforts of these majestic animals and to know that these lions are a successful breeding pair.”
Felicia and Pauline will remain behind the scenes for at least eight weeks before making their debut to the public. Zoo representatives say people should follow along with their journey by following them on social media.