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Lion cubs make their debut at Taronga Zoo

Kelsey Hogan, November 4, 2021 7:00PM Kids News

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Mum Maya keeps a close eye on her cubs as they explore their Taronga Zoo enclosure ahead of making their debut in front of the public. Picture: Toby Zerna media_cameraMum Maya keeps a close eye on her cubs as they explore their Taronga Zoo enclosure ahead of making their debut in front of the public. Picture: Toby Zerna


Reading level: green

These picture purr-fect little cubs might only be a couple of months old, but they’re sure to grab the lion’s share* of the attention when they say hello to the world for the first time.

Sydney’s Taronga Zoo announced in August the arrival of five African lion cubs, for the first time in 18 years.

The two boys are Khari (meaning like a king) and Luzuko (glory). The girls are Zuri (beautiful), Ayanna (beautiful flower) and Malika (Queen).

Lion Cubs media_cameraTwo of the cubs enjoy play time ahead of making their first public appearance at Taronga Zoo. Picture: Toby Zerna

“They all have their unique characteristics*,” said senior carnivore* keeper Danielle Haylock. “Khari is very outgoing and adventurous and likes to initiate* play.

“Zuri, when they very first went out on exhibits, she was just like ‘yeah let’s go’ and led the whole family out running, so that was very cute.

“Ayanna is the quietest cub but is also her father Ato’s favourite, he just loves her.

“But they get along incredibly well. If one of them decides to sleep then they’ll all pile on top of each other and sleep together and they all play together.”

Taronga lion cubs

It’s the third litter for mum Maya, but the first for dad Ato, who celebrated his fourth birthday when the cubs were born.

“Maya seems quite relaxed and is doing everything a mum needs to do. She started off holding some of her own food back and offering it to the cubs so they can start eating meat,” Ms Haylock said.

“She always makes sure she has them all and no one’s left behind.

“Ato is a first-time dad so at the moment we’re doing slow introductions to him and the cubs.

“If he’s ever a little bit rough, Maya will step in and let him know what behaviour is OK around the cubs and what isn’t.”

Lion Cubs media_cameraThe lion cubs are bundles of cuteness and sure to capture the hearts of visitors to the zoo. Picture: Toby Zerna

The cubs have been exploring their exhibits in the privacy of closing hours, but will make their debut in front of the public on Friday, November 5.

For the senior keeper, the birth of the five cubs is a career highlight.

“This is one of the highlights of all of our careers, it doesn’t happen very often, probably only once in each of our careers and it’s super exciting we have five cubs,” Ms Haylock said.

“Everything is going textbook* and this Friday they will be spending some time in the exhibit where the guests can see, which is very exciting.”

Lion Cubs media_cameraTaronga Zoo staff members Shari Hinch (left) and Nikki Boecker (right) get a sneak peek of the cubs. Picture: Toby Zerna.


  • lion’s share: the largest part of something
  • characteristics: features or qualities belonging to a person or thing
  • carnivore: animal that eats meat
  • initiate: cause something to begin
  • textbook: perfectly, just like you would read in the instruction book


A year of wonderful news at our zoos

Big welcome for endangered baby animals

Zoo poo test puts glitter in kitty litter


  1. How many cubs were born?
  2. Which zoo are they at?
  3. What does the name Khari mean?
  4. What is their mother’s name?
  5. Who is Danielle Haylock?


1. Write a Story
Imagine that you are the mother of the cubs. Write a story for Lion Parent magazine. The purpose of your story is to give other lion parents advice about how to get their naughty cubs to behave.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science

2. Extension
How would you celebrate the cubs’ first birthday? Create a plan for a perfect celebration. Include a design for the invitation, a plan of activities and ideas for presents for each of the cubs.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Communication Design

All About Alliterations
An alliteration is when the same initial sound of a word is repeated in the following words for effect – Bright balloons bounced boldly on their strings.

Using the lions as your noun, see if you can add an adjective, verb and maybe even an adverb to create an alliteration.

You can change the word lion to another noun that still describes the animal – cat, feline, cubs, animal, beast, king etc. This will change your initial sound.

Challenge yourself to add connectives to add more information to the sentence. Some connectives to consider are: as, like, when, while or because. For example – Bright balloons bounced boldly on their strings as the wind blew them wildly back and forth.

Adding an alliteration to your text can have a powerful impact. It is linked to Vocabulary in the VCOP. But if you use the alliteration as your opener, then it’s also linked to Openers and Punctuation (starts with a capital). This is called rainbow writing.

Can you use an alliteration to start your next text?

Extra Reading in animals