Updated 5/21/2010: I just got the news that the new Lion Cub has passed away. The zoo sent out this message regarding what happened.
May 21, 2010
It is with great sadness that we share the news that our African lion cub, born Tuesday, died last night. Our keepers had been monitoring the progress of the cub on our web cam, and late yesterday afternoon noticed the cub was not responsive to his mother. Shortly after 5 p.m., keepers were able to shift Nababiep, the mother, outside in order to retrieve the cub, a male. Our veterinary team confirmed his death.
The veterinary and pathology teams examined the cub last night and discovered a straw awn (the sharp tip on the blade of a straw) was in his lungs, which led to pneumonia and was determined to be the cause of death. The use of straw bedding for animals, including great cats, is common in zoos, and the National Zoo uses only organic material in the lions' dens.
This was a one-in-a-million fluke and we know as members and supporters, you share our devastating loss. Our animal care team and all of our Zoo and FONZ staff are consummate professionals and we know they've learned a tremendous amount from creating the pride, breeding the lions, and getting Nababiep through her first birth. While we mourn, we will also keep our focus on the best care for our lion pride and the conservation of this endangered species. Nababiep is doing well and has rejoined her sister, Shera, and keepers plan to reunite the females with Luke, the male, very soon.
While the birth of the cub was a short-lived victory, we have all learned a lot and have every hope that we will have lion cubs in the near future. Thank you for your continued support of the Smithsonian's National Zoo.
Friends of the National Zoo Dennis Kelly
Smithsonian's National Zoo