By Linh Bui

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A bittersweet goodbye. Leia the lioness is on her way to Texas, where she will join a new pride of lions. WJZ was at The Maryland Zoo as she left Thursday morning.

Linh Bui has been following her story since the beginning.

Leia and her brother, Luke, were the first lion cubs in The Maryland Zoo’s history.

Two years ago, The Maryland Zoo welcomed Leia and Luke. Only WJZ took you inside the lion’s den to meet the new cubs, who were being hand-raised after their mother died from birth complications.

They grew up right before our eyes. We checked in with Leia last week.

The big cat was ready for a big change. Just after 11 a.m. Thursday, she was put in a crate, headed for Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas.

“It’s been really interesting to watch her grow up to go from that tiny cub, where she needed us every minute; we were coming in and having to do late night feeds,” said Erin Cantwell, with The Maryland Zoo. “And now to be able to see her as a full-fledged lion, going off to go be a companion for another lion.”

Leia will be paired with a male lion name Kaikane and she’ll help grow their pride.

“We are anxious to get a young companion for Kaikane, and I’m sure he’ll be really excited to have someone who’s more willing to play with him,” Terri Cox, of Cameron Park Zoo.

Keepers will closely monitor Leia during the 24-hour journey, since she’s so laid back, they expect she’ll sleep most of the time.

Looking at her goodbye card, you see how many people at The Maryland Zoo feel.

“It’s definitely tough. We put so much time and effort. They do become a part of us,” Cantwell said.

It’s a bittersweet goodbye, as Leia begins a new chapter.

Luke will stay in Baltimore with his dad, Hassan, and another lioness named Zuri–so you can still visit them at them The Maryland Zoo.

Once in Texas, Leia will be in a quarantine phase for a month, and then she’ll be slowly introduced to the other lions.

Linh Bui


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