Oregon Zoo's grouchy lion dad latest viral celeb

With might and mane, snarly Zawadi Mungu a YouTube hit

PORTLAND, Ore. - Move over, Grumpy Cat. A new grouchy feline in Portland is taking over the Internet, and — based on his size, demeanor and species — he seems to have assumed pride of place.

In a video released by the Oregon Zoo last week, Zawadi Mungu, a fearsome 500-pound African lion, ventures outside with his energetic cubs for the first time, inviting a flurry of pint-sized attacks on his mane, tail and patience. In less than a week, the video has logged more than a million views on the zoo's YouTube channel. (To watch, visit bit.ly/cubsmeetdad.)

"We were confident that Zawadi would be tolerant of his cubs right away, and we're glad we were right because the cubs rushed him as soon as they saw him," said Laura Weiner, senior keeper for the zoo's Africa section. "At first he was surprised, but as time passed he grew more patient. A few days later, he was grooming them."

Weiner is a little surprised by all the attention that's been coming Zawadi's way, but says she's grateful for the chance to highlight African lions and raise awareness about their plight in the wild.

"Just two decades ago, lions were plentiful in much of Africa," she said. "But today they are vanishing at alarming rates. Hopefully, we can start a new chapter in lion conservation."

The Oregon Zoo supports Living with Lions, a conservation research group working to protect Africa's dwindling lion populations by employing Maasai warriors to monitor and help reduce conflict with predators.

The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor's checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on Asian elephants, polar bears, orangutans and giant pandas. Celebrating 125 years of community support, the zoo relies in part on donations through the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs.

The zoo opens at 10 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.

General zoo admission is $11.50 (ages 12-64), $10 for seniors (65 and up), $8.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo's Future for Wildlife program. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.

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