Two mountain lion cubs are on temporary display at the Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium Baby Animal Nursery.
These are the first mountain lions to be featured at Wildlife World Zoo in its 26-year history. Since its inception, Wildlife World has focused on featuring a growing list (currently more than 600 species) of nonnative exotic and endangered species from all over the globe. However, given the elusive nature of these large predators and their importance to maintaining a healthy ecosystem, zoo officials leapt at the educational opportunity to bring these animals to the West Valley during the spring months, when school field trips are at their highest levels.
A team of zookeepers experienced at rearing dozens of diverse species, including rare and endangered felines such as ocelots, jaguars and tigers, will care for these 3-week-old siblings through Easter. Unlike the typically buff colored adults, baby mountain lions are camouflaged with dark spots that fade within the first year. Females reach about 100 pounds, with males growing significantly larger. Unlike African lions, the mountain lion is usually solitary except during breeding — males do not play a role in rearing their young.
“These are the first mountain lion cubs to be on public display in Arizona in a long time,” comments Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium Director, Mickey Ollson. “Our Baby Animal Nursery is the perfect venue for the large number of visitors we welcome this time of year to see these cryptic animals.”
Mountain lions are some of the most adaptable animals in the Western Hemisphere, making use of almost any type of habitat from desert scrub to swamps and grasslands to mountain forests.
Historically, their vast range extended from Alaska to the southern tip of South America and from east to west coast. Their large range and use of diverse habitats may be why they are known by more common names than probably any other animal on the planet. However, over the past century, except for a small population found in Florida, this large predator was nearly eliminated by humans in the eastern U.S. Today, threats such as development, local declines in prey, and fragmented habitats have contributed to an overall decline of the mountain lion population.
In a related story, the Arizona Game and Fish Department recently announced that the first live ocelot since the 1960’s was spotted in the Huachuca Mountains. Commenting on this timely good news, Dr. Grey Stafford, director of conservation, said “Wildlife World has raised many ocelots and jaguars over the past quarter-century. So being able to introduce visitors to not just two but three of the state’s most elusive predator species over the next few months is very exciting for us and we hope for our guests, too.”
Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium is at 16501 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield Park. It is open seven days a week, 365 days a year. Zoo exhibits are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last zoo admission is at 5 p.m.); Aquarium exhibits are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Daytime admission includes access to the zoo and aquarium. Special reduced evening admission to aquarium-only is available after 5 p.m.
For information, call 623-935-WILD (9453) or visit www.Wildlifeworld.com.