By Makenzie O'Keefe

DENVER (CBS4) – The Denver Zoo’s new lion cub made his first public appearance on Wednesday, drawing a lot of excitement in the crowd. Visitors filled the viewing area of the lion exhibit as soon as the zoo opened, waiting for the cub to be let into his new home.

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As soon as the gate opened, the lion cub began exploring his outdoor habitat.

“Ah, a baby!” exclaimed Amy Ticknor. “He’s so cute!”

The lion cub is about eight weeks old, weighing 15 pounds. Staff says he is acclimating to his new home very well.

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“He is interested in his environment and is constantly exploring, constantly looking for new things,” explained Matthew Lenyo, the Assistant Curator of Predators at the Denver Zoo.

Lenyo said the cub is getting along with his pride, and his playful personality is already showing. Visitors like Olive Goodmore said they enjoy watching him pounce around.

“He is kind of nipping at his mom’s tail, annoying her,” Goodmore laughed. “He’s adorable.”

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Not only can visitors see the cub, but they can also help to name him. For $1, visitors can vote for one of three names chosen by the lion’s care team. The voting is a way to raise money for conservation efforts.

“The first $5,000 is going to the Lion Recovery Fund,” Lenyo said. “Within the last five years, populations of wild lions have dropped by 50%, so they’re in critical need of help.”

The rest of the money raised in the name voting process will go towards animal care at the zoo.

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“We have nutrition programs, veterinary programs, behavioral programs with enrichment toys and training,” Lenyo said. “There is a whole network or village taking care of these animals so it helps with all these services.”

The Denver Zoo raised $9,000 for conservation efforts during a similar naming fundraiser for their baby sloth, back in the spring.

The lion cub can be seen by visitors every day, weather and behavior permitting, from 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Makenzie O'Keefe

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