Dad of Oregon Zoo's 3 lion cubs named Father of the Year - KPTV - FOX 12

Dad of Oregon Zoo's 3 lion cubs named 'Father of the Year'

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Zawadi, photo from Oregon Zoo Zawadi, photo from Oregon Zoo

They pounce on him, tug at his mane and bite his tail. The Oregon Zoo's lion cubs just generally try the patience of their 500-pound father.

Zawadi allows it, however, and for that, the Oregon Zoo has named him its "Father of the Year."

After being born in September 2013, the three cubs didn't meet their dad until March.

When the whole family ventured outside for the first time, the cubs were caught on camera unleashing pint-sized attacks on their poppa. He growled and snarled in their direction, but still let them to keep on playing.

That video has been viewed on YouTube nearly 2 million times.

"What little lion cubs do is practice hunting, and the way they do that is on their parents and siblings," said Laura Weiner, senior keeper for the zoo's Africa section. "They are constantly stalking, chasing, pouncing, biting - and Zawadi allows all that. He was a bit snarly at first, but in general, he's been very patient with the cubs."

Zookeepers said within a few days, he was grooming his cubs. Now, he cannot only be seen playing with them, he also occasionally snuggles up next to them.

Photos: Lion cubs pounce on their patient poppa
Video: African lion playing with his three cubs

Zawadi, along with the cubs' mother Neka, and the pride's other female, Kya, all came to the Oregon Zoo in 2009 based on a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for African lions.

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.

Online voters picked Neka as the zoo's 2014 "Mom of the Year" around the time of Mother's Day.

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