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PORTLAND -- He may be a ferocious king of the jungle, but the Oregon Zoo s male lion turned into a playful kitty when he met his new cubs for the first time last week.

The three cubs rushed up to their dad, Zawadi Mungu, and immediately started attacking his mane, tail and patience.

We were confident that Zawadi would be tolerant of his cubs right away, and we re glad we were right, 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.

Photos:Ore. Zoo lion meets his cubs

The first meeting took place inside the cubs den but the greetings later moved outside.

Now, the pride even shares some meals in the outdoor exhibit and Zawadi watches over the group. The cubs venture outside on most days when the temperature is above 45 degrees.

The cubs mother, Neka and the other lioness, Kya are also especially protective when the cubs approach Zawadi.

Within minutes, he had five female lions swarming him, Weiner said. I think all of that attention must have been overwhelming because he quickly jumped onto a boulder.

Keepers said cub Zalika, who had a mild temperament in her infancy, has become especially active with Zawadi, often jumping on and playfully biting him.

The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. 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.

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