LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — All four of the National Zoo’s youngest African lion cubs passed their swim test Tuesday.
Three male cubs and one female cub were born to 9-year-old Shera on March 2. All cats born at the Great Cats exhibit must take the test before they go on exhibit.
“As keepers, it’s our duty to take every precaution to ensure the cubs’ survival,” says Kristen Clark, an animal keeper at the zoo.
“It’s possible that a cub could be playing around and get knocked into the moat by a parent or sibling. We want to make sure that if they find themselves in that situation, they know how to pull themselves out of the water and onto shore.”
The 10-week-old brothers and sister will make their public debut in mid-June once all vaccinations have been administered. You can watch them anytime on the National Zoo website’s lion cams. You can watch a video of their swim test here:
Two other lion cubs born on January 24 to 10-year-old lioness Nababiep passed their swim test in April. They were the first litter of African lion cubs in four years and they are the younger litter’s half siblings.
Beginning May 9, the older cubs’ keepers will decide on a day-to-day basis whether they will spend time in the yard from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The decision will be based on weather and how the cubs adjust to being outdoors.
African lion populations in the wild have dwindled by 30 percent during the past 20 years as a result of poaching, disease and habitat loss and are considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The National Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ African Lion Species Survival Plan, a program that matches individual animals across the country for breeding in order to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining population.