By Karen Brooks
Jan 5 (Reuters) - Five African lion cubs were born last week in a Nebraska zoo, the latest success in a national effort to raise the population of the vulnerable species.
Two males and three females were born Dec. 29 at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, considered a global leader in wild animal conservation and genetics.
Four are on display in the zoo, while one female cub, born weak and underweight, is gaining strength under intensive care in the zoo hospital, where she is being bottle fed and is expected to rejoin her mother when she gains more weight, according to a zoo statement.
The zoo also has four adult African lions, one male and three females.
The births of the lions, which are of the subspecies krugeri, are part of a push by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to breed lions of known lineage.
In addition to the Omaha cubs, 11 more African lions have been born in AZA accredited zoos in North America, according to the zoo.
The father, Mr. Big, is 14 years old and weighs 560 pounds, and the mother, Mfisha, is six years old and weighs 335 pounds. This was their first litter. The last African lion cubs to be born at the Omaha zoo arrived in 1994.
Labeled a "vulnerable" species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, African lions, which live in sub-Sahara Africa, have seen their populations decline by up to 50 percent worldwide in the last two decades. (Reporting By Karen Brooks; Editing by Vicki Allen)
BEFORE YOU GO
A drowsy looking female lion cub sports a milk mustache after being bottle fed at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb., Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. he cub, part of a litter of 5 born on Dec. 29, 2012, was smaller than the others and did not compete well for food, so zoo staff began caring for it until it becomes strong enough to join it's siblings. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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