Great Cats

National Zoo's

The Great Cats exhibit on Lion/Tiger Hill features Sumatran tigers and African lions—living, breathing, roaring great cats. They are ambassadors for their wild relatives, and for the Zoo's conservation and science initiatives for tigers, lions, and many other cats, which, even if not great in size, are still great!

Lions and tigers are on exhibit between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., daily (weather permitting).

Endangered Song

On Earth Day 2014, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute launched the “Endangered Song Project,” an analog-meets-digital outreach campaign that asked 400 participants to help raise awareness about the fact that there are only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild. Read more.

Lion Update: April 16

We have an animal care update from our Great Cats team. Last week, one of our African lion cubs—a male born to Shera and Luke—had not gained as much weight as expected and was exhibiting some lameness in his right leg.

The good news is that he has gained weight over the weekend! Although he continues to have a bit of a limp, it hasn’t held him back! He plays with his siblings and isn’t shy about nudging them out of the way when it’s time to nurse. His weight gain and ability to interact normally with mom and siblings are encouraging signs, but his limp remains a concern. Keepers and vets will continue to monitor the cub’s weight and movements closely in the coming weeks.

A note to Lion Cub Cam watchers: Shera has moved her cubs out of the maternity area of the building and closer to the rest of the pride where they are becoming acquainted with their aunt and half siblings. We will update you as the cubs reach new milestones.

Read more about the lion cubs.

Tiger Update: March 6, 2014

Sumatran tiger cubs Bandar and Sukacita turned seven months old yesterday! Both are growing fast—Bandar weighs 88 pounds, and Sukacita weighs 73 pounds.

The Washington, D.C. winter weather has been particularly cold and snowy this year. On days where it’s too cold to go outside, we give the cubs a few enrichment items to play with indoors to keep them active and engaged.

In the video below, you’ll see Bandar is having a grand old time with this burlap sack (stuffed with hay). To ensure each enrichment experience is new and exciting—we vary the types of items they get. On any given day, the cubs could receive a water tub to play in, boomer balls, or scented enrichment. And depending on their mood, one cub may want an item more than the other cub. Or, they may want it equally and play tug-o-war for it! Sukacita doesn’t appear to be interested in the sack in this video. But if she wanted it, she would have put up more of a fight and wrestled with her brother for it.

We’ve had several days where the bitter cold of winter was broken with some welcomed sunshine and warmth. Mom Damai and the cubs certainly enjoy their time in the yard. The cubs are still honing their hunting skills by sneaking up on one another and mom—who seems to enjoy the chase as much as they do! Visit the Zoo and see them every day from noon until they are ready to come inside (weather permitting).

Read more about the tiger cubs.

Lots of Cats

There are cats all over the Zoo! Tigers and lions live at Great Cats, with caracals right next door. Cheetahs live at the Zoo's Cheetah Conservation Station. Fishing cats and clouded leopards live on Asia Trail. A sand cat lives in the Small Mammal House. → Learn about cats at the Zoo.

Cat Conservation

Clouded leopards at the National Zoo

Large or small, cats are graceful, specialized, and powerful animals. Yet, they are among the most endangered. Zoo conservation biologists are working with colleagues on lions' home ground in Africa, and tigers' in Asia, to develop the scientific understanding necessary for effective conservation. Zoo scientists are studying the ecology, behavior, and reproductive biology of tigers, lions, and many other cat species, including cheetahs, clouded leopards, and fishing cats.