It's a baby boom for the owner of a pet lioness in central Pakistan. The African lioness named Queen has given birth to five healthy cubs — double the usual two-to-three-cub litters among lions.
Owner Malik Fazal Abbas said he has had 4-year-old Queen since she was 2 months old. She mated with a male lion that Abbas also keeps at his home in the city of Multan. The pair has already had a litter of two cubs, now nine months old.
Abbas, a cotton and mango grower, says he has a license from the Pakistani Wildlife Department to keep lions as pets — a dream he has since he was a boy.
And he is not the only exotic pet owner in Pakistan. The tiger is a symbol of the ruling party of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and some supporters keep tigers that they bring out during election campaigns.
"You know, it's brave to hug lions," he told The Associated Press at his home, which has a separate section for his animals.
But keeping wildlife as pets is not a "hobby easy to afford," he added — his lion and lioness each eat 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of meat a day. The nine-months-old cubs each consume around 9 kilograms (20 pounds) of meat daily.
Abbas said his family was initially uneasy but later grew more comfortable, even feedings the cubs from milk bottles.
He has a caretaker for the animals, and claims he follows all precautions and safety measures to ensure his lions harm no one. His neighbors often come to visit the lions with their families.
A Pakistani wildlife department official, Ghulam Muhammad, said it was legal to keep the animals as pets — as long as they do not endanger anyone.
"We make sure in our visits that the owners have all the protections in place," Muhammad said.
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