SOUF, Jordan — The odds had been stacked against Hajar, a lion cub born just hours after her mother Dana, rescued from a defunct zoo in war-torn Syria, was released into a wildlife reserve in Jordan.

Dana and 12 other animals, including four other lions, two bears and two tigers, had barely survived under harsh conditions in the Syrian city of Aleppo, until a few months ago a major battleground in the country’s civil war.

They were transported from Syria to Turkey and then to Jordan by the international animal charity Four Paws, stuck in cages during the three-week journey.

The animals arrived at the al-Ma’wa reserve in northern Jordan on Friday.

Dr. Amir Khalil, a vet who accompanied the animals, said Sunday that he had been worried during the transport that Dana would give birth while in a cage. In such a case, it’s unlikely the cub would have survived, he said.

Instead, Hajar, Arabic for “the immigrant,” was born sometime in the night from Friday to Saturday, in the tranquility of the wooded reserve. Staff at the reserve discovered the cub when they checked on Dana on Saturday morning.


Khalil said he believes the lioness waited for a safe space to give birth.

“She is a mom, she had the instinct,” he said. “It’s a miracle.”

The cub is white, a color that might change later, and weighs an estimated 3.3 to 4.4 pounds, said Khalil who hasn’t been able yet to examine Hajar. The gender is still unknown.

On Sunday, the cub was mostly sleeping next to the mother in a cage in the reserve. The mother has been bonding with the cub, nursing and cleaning it.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.