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Meet Haji | North Carolina Zoo's new lion

Haji, 3, weighs 400 pounds and is from New Orleans' Audubon Zoo. He made the long journey to be mated with Mekita, the last lion at the NC Zoo.
Credit: North Carolina Zoo

ASHEBORO, N.C. — The North Carolina Zoo welcomes its new male lion Haji.

Haji, 3, weighs 400 pounds and is from New Orleans' Audubon Zoo.

What's his reason for leaving the Crescent City- to find a mate?

Yes, the Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) Lions Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommended the relationship between Haji and the NC's Zoo only female lion Mekita, 13.

Mekita was previously paired with Reilly, 23, before he died in August 2022.

Since lions are social animals who live in prides, the AZA suggested the pairing.

Mekita and Haji have been getting to know each other very well like any other young couple- through a chaperoned courtship period.

But it seems like they're off to a friendly start.

"We are seeing some positive signs in their introductions, such as vocalizations to each other,” said the Zoo's Curator of Mammals Jennifer Ireland.

You will be able to see Haji and Mekita on habitat, now that they are on a rotating schedule.

"We're giving Haji more time to explore his new habitat to help establish his territory. It takes a lot of time and patience to work with big cats. Right now, they can see and smell each other," said Ireland.

As their relationship grows, Haji and Mekita will be able to roam the habitat together.


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