PORTLAND A 6-year-old African lion at the Oregon Zoo gave birth to three healthy cubs Saturday night.

The cubs were born between 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., according to zookeepers. Zoo officials said first-time mom Neka is doing well in her maternity den. The lions are not on display.

We re all delighted at the arrival of these cubs and very proud of Neka, said curator Jennifer Davis, who oversees the zoo s Africa and primate areas. It s terrific to see her taking such good care of her babies. There s still a lot that could happen, so we re being very cautious and giving her as much quiet time as possible. But so far she seems to be taking to motherhood quite naturally.

For a first-time mom, we couldn't ask for anything more, agreed Laura Weiner, senior keeper for the zoo's Africa area. She cleaned her cubs off right away, and she's been allowing them to nurse. The cubs all appear to be healthy. They're moving around well, and they have a lot of energy.

On Thursday, the zoo announced Neka was pregnant, but estimated Sept. 14 as her due date. Davis cautioned that this is Neka s first pregnancy, and the birth of a healthy litter of cubs was not a sure thing.

After about six to eight weeks, if the cubs are healthy and continue to thrive, animal-care staff will determine whether they are ready for a public debut.

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