SEATTLE - Woodland Park Zoo's lion pride grew Friday when three African lions were born.

The three male cubs are the first litter between the mother, 5-year-old Adia, and 7-year-old father, Xerxes.

Zookeepers are monitoring the new family round-the-clock. The mother and cubs are bonding and nursing, according to Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo.

This is the first offspring for the father. The last birth of lions was in 2012 when Adia gave birth to four cubs with a different male.

Zookeepers moved the cubs into the off-view maternity den where the new family can bond in comfortable, quiet surroundings. The father remains separated from the cubs and mother.

The first 48 hours are critical, and animal care staff will be monitoring each of the cubs closely for signs of normal behavior and development over the next several weeks.

"Animal management staff are closely monitoring the litter via an internal cam to ensure the mom is providing good maternal care and the cubs are properly nursing. The mom and cubs will remain off public view until they are a bit older and demonstrate solid mobility skills. In addition, outdoor temperatures need to be a minimum of 50 degrees," said Ramirez.

The Zoo says the African lion is the only big cat not protected under the Endangered Species Act. As few as 32,000 African lions are estimated to remain in the wild and their future remains uncertain, particularly as the growth in human population continues to impact lion populations. There is legal hunting of lions and retaliation killing because they pose a threat to humans and livestock.