Lions are one of several species that call Edge of Africa home. The park is currently home to six of the large African cats, split into two prides.
Official Open Date: July 4, 1997
Location: Edge of Africa
There are currently two prides of lions who call Edge of Africa home, with one pride being on display at a time while the second remains behind the scenes. The prides are always kept separate from one another to avoid any conflicts. The lions and hyenas share habitats – but of course not at the same time. As a way to keep things interesting, they routinely switch habitats.
The “Simon Pride” is the older of the two groups, and is made up of Simon, Rose, and Iris. The younger group is the “Kembe Pride,” with Kembe, Shaba, and Shtuko.
Male lion Simon was born on March 15, 2006, and arrived at the park that year as a cub. As of 2014, he weighed in at 420 pounds. He is often the first of the three in his pride to explore something new in the habitat and is very affectionate towards his pride mates and trainers. One of his favorite forms of enrichment is taco seasoning, and he’s also been known to particularly enjoy cantaloupe as a treat.
Female lions Iris and Rose were born on August 15, 2006. The twins can be difficult to tell apart – Rose is slightly smaller than Iris, and her tail is a bit fuller than her larger sister. Rose tends to be more playful, starting a game of pouncing with her sister or playing with enrichment provided to the lions by the animal care staff. Iris tends to be the more confident and dominant of the sisters and is often more vocal. She’s been known to roar at the request of the animal care staff.
Male lion Kembe was born in South Africa on February 20, 2013. Sisters Shaba and Shtuko were born on March 20, 2013, in South Africa. The three cubs arrived at Busch Gardens on May 18, 2013. All three cubs have genetic lines from the Kalahari and Kruger regions of South Africa, where lions are recognized for their large size and impressive manes on males. The addition of the cubs comes as the result of a relationship between Busch Gardens and a private zoological facility in South Africa and enhances the sustainability of lions living in managed care in North America, as well as aids in the park’s breeding program.
A contest through Facebook in June 2013 allowed fans to choose the names of the pair. In Swahili, Shaba means brazen or sassy, and Shtuko means twitch. The other choice for the pair was Malaika meaning angel and Mlinzi meaning protector.
The lion cubs went on display in the Edge of Africa in June 2013, first in the small habitat across from the meerkats for short periods of time on most days, and eventually into the main lion/hyena habitats where they reside today.
Video originally posted to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s YouTube channel
In 2013, the park celebrated World Lion Day on the weekend of August 10 and 11. Special keeper talks, appearances on the habitat of the new pride, and other festivities were part of the weekend celebration.
By his first birthday in 2014, Kembe weighed in at nearly 200 pounds. A combination 1st birthday party for the three cubs in the Kembe pride was held on March 1 that year.
In 2015, the park celebrated World Lion Day on Saturday, August 8. Special keeper talks, animal enrichment, and “lion-inspired” festivities were all part of the celebration. The park also noted in a press release about the event that the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund had already helped support 25 different lion conservation projects in six African countries, totaling $320,000.
In celebration of Simon’s 15th birthday, the park held a special enrichment session at the habitat on March 15, 2021, at 10:30 a.m.
Additional details and images will be added in the future.
Busch Gardens Tampa | Jun 12 2013 – accessed 12/25/2017
Busch Gardens Tampa | Jun 19 2013 – accessed 12/25/2017
Busch Gardens Tampa | Mar 14 2013 – accessed 3/17/2013
Busch Gardens Tampa | Jun 10 2013 – accessed 6/15/2013
Busch Gardens Tampa | Jun 25 2013 – accessed 7/7/2013
Busch Gardens Tampa | Aug 2 2013 – accessed 9/11/2013
Busch Gardens Tampa | Aug 8 2013 – accessed 9/11/2013
Busch Gardens Tampa | Aug 1 2014 – accessed 10/18/2015
Busch Gardens Tampa | Feb 19 2014 – accessed 10/18/2015
Busch Gardens Tampa | Aug 4 2015 – accessed 1/5/2018
Facebook – Busch Gardens Tampa Bay | Mar 15 2018 – accessed 3/15/2018
Twitter – @BuschGardens | Mar 11 2021 – accessed 3/11/2021
Last update: January 19, 2022