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The original item was published from 5/31/2017 10:50:56 AM to 7/1/2017 12:00:00 AM.

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City of Idaho Falls News

Posted on: May 31, 2017

[ARCHIVED] Idaho Falls Zoo’s African Lion Family Reunited

AltTextIdaho Falls Zoo employees are happy to report that everything went extremely well with the reintroduction of a 3-month-old male African lion cub to his parents. The lovely family trio is now on exhibit daily.

In early March, the cub was moved to the zoo’s hospital for treatment of a life-threatening medical issue.  “After such a long separation,” explains Dallas LaDucer, large carnivore keeper, “sorting out their social relationships with each other is a delicate and important process for the lion family.” 

The successful reunion was the culmination of months of hard work including intense veterinary care, expert consultations from around the country, and countless hours of bottle-feeding and tender loving care by zoo staff.  The reunion process also included behavioral training with the cub’s parents and socialization training from his “foster mother,” Justice the dog.

“To have this potentially dangerous reintroduction go so smoothly is the result of an enormous effort from many people over several months,” stated zoo Executive Director David Pennock. “To watch our staff work so hard, with such passion and competency makes me very proud to be associated with the Idaho Falls Zoo,” adds Pennock.

Reintroducing this genetically valuable cub to his parents was essential for his development, as lions are the most social of the cat species. Sociability is incredibly important for behavioral and psychological stability. Young cubs rely on other members of their pride to teach them how to be adult lions. As the cub gets older, the need to socialize with other lions increases in importance. 

“We are so pleased to report the new cub is doing very well and busy doing what lion cubs do best,” stated Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Rhonda Aliah. “He is romping around and playing with his parents just as a healthy, happy cub should.”

AltTextJustice, the Great Pyrenees dog that helped the cub learn how to be a good young carnivore, will remain at the zoo as a much-loved and valued member of the Idaho Falls Zoo family.

Justice can be seen throughout the zoo daily helping staff with chores, resting in the Children’s Zoo, or participating in one of the zoo’s education programs. 

“The story of the young African lion cub seems like something only Hollywood or Disney could dream up,” says Sunny Katseanes, education curator. To learn more about the cub’s story, see the previous press releases on the cub’s birth and early days with Justice and the reintroduction release.

The zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  For details on zoo special events, interactive Exploration Stations and daily times to meet a zookeeper, visit

Media Note: For more information or to schedule an interview with zoo staff, contact Public Information Officer, Kerry Hammon.


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