The three cubs had had a great time with their handlers. But it was finally time for them to meet their dad. It went incredibly well.
The zoo handlers placed the cubs inside the enclosure. Their dad, Zawadi, was just around the corner. Would the dad be happy to see them?
One of the cubs, Zalika, went straight to the dad. She jumped onto a log next to the huge lion. The dad looked at his daughter, realizing that one of his children was staring at him.
A look of understanding passed between these two lions.
Zawadi playfully roared at the child. The cub got a little scared and retreated onto a rock. But the dad was just saying hi.
Later, a second cub joined the first on the rock and they started playing with one another.
Then the third cub marched near their dad.
The third cub also jumped onto a log next to the dad. He also made eye contact.
The dad lion now knew to not roar at his cubs.
Instead, he climbed onto the rock that the other cubs had been playing on.
The cubs’ mother then walked in close, as if to tell the cubs that it was ok for them to meet their father.
Then the bravest cub, Zalika, joined her father on the rock.
She sniffed around Zawadi for a while. Then she tried to climb onto her father’s back.
The other two cubs came closer to their father, realizing that the dad was happy to see them.
Eventually, all three of the cubs started rubbing their bodies’ against their dad, hugging him.
Then the dad pet one of his kids with his paw, as if to say, “You’re a good kid.”
Oregon Zoo then uploaded this footage to YouTube. It soon went viral. To date, the footage has gained over 23 million views. It also has more than 139,000 views.
A couple of months later, Oregon Zoo uploaded another video of Zawadi and his cubs to show how much they’d bonded.
The cubs were now twice the size as they were in the first video.
The dad was also happily cuddling up with his children.
He was playing with them a lot more. In the video, he kept on swiping at one of the cubs. It was clear that this swiping wasn’t violent but friendly in nature.
Then he got up from his spot and bumped heads with another of the cubs.
Oregon Zoo announced in this video that Zawadi was the zoo’s father of the year. They admitted that on rare occasions, he could be grumpy, but on the whole, he had done a great job of raising his babies.
This second video has gained 860,000 views.
The zoo’s senior keeper of the Africa section, Laura Weiner, said, “I think Zawadi’s an excellent choice for Father of the Year. For a lion, being a father is more about protecting your offspring than playing with them. And Zawadi’s been great about watching over his cubs – while at the same time allowing them to use him as a jungle gym.”
Now all of the cubs are fully grown. Thanks to Zawadi, they are all fine lions!
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