Lion cubs go for their first swim at National Zoo

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At the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., four lion cubs born in late August had their first swimming lesson Tuesday. Why would lion cubs need a swimming lesson, you ask? Good question. When the cubs move with their mother, Shera, to an outdoor enclosure (likely to happen in late December), they’ll find themselves surrounded by a water-filled moat. Keepers wanted to ensure their safety by making sure they’d be able to swim should they accidentally fall in.

According to the zoo, the swimming test was a success, with all four cubs -- three females and one male, if you’re wondering -- managing to perform a passable dog paddle. (Is there a different name for a dog paddle if it’s performed by a cat? ‘Lion paddle,’ perhaps?)

The cubs swam under the supervision of the zoo’s great cats curator, Craig Saffoe, and two keepers, Rebecca Stites and Kristen Clark. The litter is the first for 4-year-old Shera, who has shown herself to be an excellent mother, according to the zoo. The cubs are expected to stay at the National Zoo until they’re about 2 years old, zoo staff explained in an online chat held last month; when they reach sexual maturity, they’ll move to other zoos to participate in conservation breeding programs.

After the jump, check out more photos and video of the cubs’ first swim session. If you’re still hungry for more photos and video of these guys, the zoo has more photos on its Flickr page and even offers a webcam so you can watch the cubs in action. (As we write this, the babies are nursing, and it’s hard to take our eyes off the cuteness long enough to type.)


Your morning adorable: African lion cubs make their debut at Berlin Zoo
Your morning adorable: Birth of rare Sumatran tiger cub surprises keepers at the Frankfurt Zoo

-- Lindsay Barnett

1st-2nd photos: Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

3rd-7th photos: Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images

Video: Associated Press