Lion cubs undergo swim test at the National Zoo
Zoo keepers dropped four lion cubs into the moat of the National Zoo's outdoor lion enclosure as a swim test to determine when the cubs can go on public display.
"When we came out that door, it's the first time any of these cubs have seen daylight, have been outside," shared lion curator Craig Saffoe.
In order to enjoy the outdoor lion yard, the cubs have to prove they can survive the moat.
"We did put them in water inside but we're talking little kiddie pool type tubs. This was 'holy cow, we're in the ocean!'" explained Saffoe.
Several zoo keepers stood guard like lifeguards with nets, wet suits and protective gloves.
Zoo keeper Kristen Clark said, "We've been handling these cubs since they were born basically."
All four cubs instinctively doggy paddled, but getting out of the water took some coaching.
They are the first lion cubs at the zoo in more than 20 years. The eight-week-old cubs don't have names yet, but zookeepers say they're each starting to show more personality.
One is a little fiesty, showing off his teeth. About him, Clark said, "He tends to be a lot more hissy and spits during exams."
Another one has an independent spirit, showing off her swimming skills.
"She tends to come over to the mesh and just sit and watch. Tends to be a little more solicitous of keeper attention," said
Zookeepers say they now plan to discuss how the cubs did in the water, but they say at this point, they are scheduled to be released into the outside exhibit at the zoo when the cubs are a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger.
According to Clark, "You never know with animals how it's going to go. So there's always that variable of 'what-if.'"
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