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Oklahoma City Zoo welcomed its first lion cubs in 15 years. You can help name them

The Oklahoma City Zoo welcomed its first African lion cubs in 15 years and wants help naming them.

Dunia, a 7-year-old African lion, gave birth to three females and one male on Sept. 26. People can vote for one of three groups of names on the zoo's website.

  1. African inspired names: Neema (grace), Zahara (flower), Makena (happiness), and Mshango (surprise).
  2. Nature inspired names in Swahili following the theme of their mother's name, which means "the Earth": Nyasi (grass), Mlima (mountain/hill), Mti (tree/wood), and Mwamba (rock).
  3. Oklahoma-inspired names: Ada, Alva, Talimena (for Talimena State Park near Talihina, Okla.) , and Shawnee.
  4. "The last time there were lion cubs at the Zoo, we held a naming contest and we're continuing with tradition!" the zoo wrote on its Facebook page. "We need help naming Dunia's little lion cubs and we are asking all of our fans to cast their vote."

    The zoo said Dunia and her cubs are in good health and are spending time bonding in their indoor dens at Lion Overlook. In the coming weeks, the cubs will receive their vaccinations and gradually be introduced to the other lions at the zoo.

    Though not currently endangered in Africa, African lions are considered "vulnerable" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, with about 75% of their populations in decline, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Habitat loss, prey decline and conflict with humans continue to threaten African lions, of which there are around 23,000 left in the wild.

    The Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan, a team of experts who manage species populations in zoos and aquariums, advised the zoo that Dunia should breed with the zoo's male lion, Hubert.

    Voting will close Monday at midnight and the winning names will be announced Wednesday on the zoo's Facebook page.

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.