MIAMI -

For the first time in the 33-year history of Zoo Miami, the zoo says the birth of lions is being celebrated.

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, "Kashifa," a 3-year, 8-month-old lioness, gave birth to three cubs in a special den off exhibit.

The cubs were being observed in that den via a closed circuit camera until Tuesday, Oct. 1, which indicated that the newborns are being well cared for by the first time mother.

Zoo staff was successful in shifting the mother Tuesday morning, which allowed the separation of the cubs and subsequent safe access for their neonatal examination.

The examination allowed staff to determine the sex of the cubs, as well as obtain weights while carefully evaluating their overall condition. In addition, Zoo Miami said the cubs received microchips for identification.

The two males and single female appeared to be in excellent health weighing between 1.63 kg and 1.75 kg, and will remain off exhibit with their mother for approximately 3 months until zoo staff feels confident that the cubs can be introduced to the rest of the pride and safely navigate the exhibit with the adults.

Kashifa is one of four lions that form the pride at Zoo Miami. She shares the exhibit with her sister, Asha, and two unrelated brothers, Jabari and Kwame.

The zoo said both females were born at the Bronx Zoo in New York in Jan. 2010, and the males were born at the Racine Zoo in Wisconsin in Sept. 2007. It is not known for sure which if the two brothers is the father of the cubs, as Zoo Miami said both males had equal access to the females.

The cubs were born as part of a carefully planned breeding that was the result of a Species Survival Plan recommendation. Species Survival Plans are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums mission to cooperatively manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered species populations in accredited institutions, according to Zoo Miami.

Lions are considered vulnerable and have suffered significant population declines over the last several decades with only an estimated 32,000 individuals remaining in the wild, down from over 100,000 living 50 years ago, Zoo Miami said. They are the only truly social cats living in prides that can number over 20 individuals.

The zoo said males can exceed 400 pounds and develop their classic mane between 4 and 7 years of age. In the wild, the average lifespan of lions is approximately 12-15 years, but in captivity they can live over 20 years.

PHOTOS: Lion cubs born at Zoo Miami

Published On: Oct 01 2013 03:21:37 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 01 2013 03:33:55 PM EDT

Photos courtesy of Zoo Miami.

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