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Zoo Mourns Death Of Newborn Lion

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By Rebecca Sheir

Keepers at the National Zoo are mourning the death of their first new African lion cub in more than 20 years. The cub died days after it was born.

The mother, Nababiep, gave birth Tuesday. Craig Saffoe, an interim curator at the Zoo, says the cub died of pneumonia last night.

"The animal ingested the top of a haygrass seed that has a little bit of [a] spiky tip to it," he says, "and that migrated into the lungs."

Saffoe says Zoos often use haygrass as bedding. He calls the death a "one-in-a-million" fluke, but says "we want to make sure we're reducing that if possible. So we will likely continue some form of a hay bedding. I just don't know if it will be the same grass hay we're using now."

The cub was Naba's first. Saffoe says it isn't fair to say whether she is "grieving."

"When we get in to trying to think for animals, or trying to apply human emotions to animals, it's a very slippery slope," he says. "So what we do as animal husbandry managers is we react to what the animals' needs are."

That's why they've reunited Nababiep with her sister, Shera. Saffoe says he hopes the pair soon will rejoin Luke, the male of the pride.

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