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Cute baby lion makes public debut at west Japan zoo

TOBE, Ehime -- A 2-month-old lion cub made its public debut at a zoo in this western Japan town on July 5, and the facility is asking members of the public to vote for a name for the animal.

    The baby lion rubs the legs of a zookeeper at Tobe Zoological Park of Ehime Prefecture in the town of Tobe on July 4, 2022. (Mainichi/Tomoe Saito)

    The cub was born between father Neo, 8, and mother Sakura, 7, at Tobe Zoological Park of Ehime Prefecture on May 5, and was unveiled to the media a day before going on public display.

    Sakura became ill after giving birth and was diagnosed as anorexic, so the cub began to be fed artificial milk when he was about 3 weeks old, but both mother and baby have since recovered their health. The baby lion was estimated to weigh 1 kilogram and was about 30 centimeters long from the head to hip at birth. He has since grown to weigh 5.5 kg and measure about 50 cm in length.

    The cub apparently remained calm after it was separated from his mother and switched to suckling artificial milk. He sometimes cries when he cannot see a zookeeper. Now he is fed an even mix of milk and minced meat.

    Occasionally, the cub playfully bites the fingers of zookeeper Kazuma Shimizu, 43, who commented, "It hurts a lot depending on the angle (of biting)," because the lion already has fangs and some other teeth despite his baby face.

    The lion cub is on public display between 12:45 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. except for days the zoo is closed.

    The zoo is accepting votes for the cub's name by visitors until July 24 from three candidates: "Clay" after a lion character in the movie "Sing 2"; "Tango" because his birthday May 5 is called "Tango no sekku" (Children's Day) in Japanese; and "Rao" taking a syllable from each of his parents' names.

    (Japanese original by Tomoe Saito, Matsuyama Bureau)

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