Chapter One

Zola was overheated. This pregnancy had been difficult for her. Even though there was an autumn breeze, she was tired. Her cubs would be born this night. Thankfully the sun was about to set. Zola walked slowly to her area in the cave. The other lions in the exhibit all knew that her time had come and moved to different parts of the cave to allow Zola her space.

Zola laid exhausted but proudly beside her three perfect cubs: two females and one male cub to present to Nrimba. But for now what she needed was sleep.

Zola and Nrimba lived with two other lions in the Pretoria Zoo Lion Exhibit in South Africa. They were brought here when they were very young. They had no recollection of any life prior to living in the zoo. The lion exhibit was all they knew.

The exhibit was fairly good sized and was furnished with all of the usual trees, shrubs, and rocks that were indigent to South Africa. However, some of these rocks, as well as the great cave, were of man-made materials. There were several places the four lions that lived here could hide in case they just didn't feel like being on display for their human observers. Zola was taking advantage of one of those secret places to rest after a difficult labor and birth of her three new lion cubs. This is the story of Nia, one of the female cubs. She had a sister, Nadia, and brother, Nanji as well. They would live in the cave with their mother, Zola, for the next several months.

Because they lived in the zoo, every morning the humans would come and bring food to the lion exhibit. After several days, the humans noticed that Zola was not recovering as quickly as she should from the birth of her cubs. So when they brought food, they would also bring medicine to help Zola return to health. This medicine was added to her food so she would take it willingly. Because they brought food, the lions were very comfortable having the humans come into the exhibit.

With the help of the medicine, Zola began to regain some of her strength. Although she still felt weak, she was able to feed and take care of her cubs. Nia, Nadia and Nanji began to thrive as well as would be expected from animals born in captivity.

Nia and her siblings were the familiar tawny color with dark spots on their heads, legs, and down the middle of their backs. As with all of their species, they loved to wrestle with and around their mother. As Nia lay relaxing in the warm spring sunshine, her brother and sister were wrestling nearby. It would soon be time to leave the shelter of the cave.

It's funny how instincts work. Even though Zola had spent most of her life in the zoo; she still had her cubs in the safety of the cave. Even though she lived in a protected, self-contained environment, Mama sensed that the cave was the place for the start of these new cub lives.

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