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Oaklawn Farm Zoo in Aylesford to kick off 2017 season with new lion cub

AYLESFORD - Some Oaklawn Farm Zoo regulars might feel a sense of déjà vu when they visit the African lions this spring.

“We have a new lion,” announced zookeeper Mike Brobbel in an interview April 4.

The Aylesford-based zoo is slated to re-open April 14.

For a second year in a row, Oaklawn will be introducing the public to a new African lion cub born to Nyah and Obi.

“This is their second child and their last,” said Brobbel, noting that it’s nearly been one year since the pair’s first cub, Hunter, was born.

The latest addition to the pride, named Nnenne (Nee), was born Oct. 24, 2016.

“Her and Hunter hang out all the time because she’s still pretty small, so they live together,” said Brobbel.

“She was born right when we were closing for the season.”

The cubs have spent the winter season bonding, playing and growing – lots of growing.

“(Hunter’s) got his new roommate. He’s got his little sister with him, which has been really good for him because he didn’t have a litter mate,” said Brobbel.

Oaklawn Farm Zoo employee Maria Weinberg specializes in caring for the big cats. She can often be spotted among the lions when there’s work to be done inside the enclosure.

Born last April, African lion cub Hunter has certainly changed his looks since zoo goers last visited Oaklawn in the fall.

The new cub’s name – Nnenne (Nee) – is commonly used in Africa, often given when it is believed a grandmother has been reincarnated in a child. Weinberg fondly remembers her own mother lovingly referring to herself as the grandmother of the lions her daughter cared for at Oaklawn.

Weinberg, who played a significant role in raising Hunter, said Nnenne is practically her brother’s shadow.

“They’re inseparable,” said Weinberg, walking over to the lion enclosure to find the cubs cuddling on a hill while lounging in the sun.

Weinberg estimates Nnenne weighs about 60 pounds, and Hunter is closer to 170 pounds. The adult males – five-year-old Sterk and three-year-old Obi – would be about 550 pounds, she added.

The lions weren’t the only animals to welcome a newcomer in the fall.

In the same month Nnenne was born, gibbons Boo Boo and Zandor also welcomed a newborn.

 “They’ve mated for life and Boo Boo has been here since 1984, so she’s one of the originals here,” said Brobbel, adding that it is believed Boo Boo is 33-years-old.

Boo Boo, affectionately called “Boo” by many, could be found monkeying around April 4, gently taking crackers from Brobbel’s hand while her infant tightly wrapped its arms around her torso.

Brobbel expects to see plenty of guests dropping by Oaklawn Farm Zoo in 2017. He said more than 100,000 visitors stopped in last season.

Oaklawn Farm Zoo zookeeper Mike Brobbel hands 33-year-old gibbon Boo Boo, pictured carrying a new baby, a cracker.

“It was a really good year.”

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