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One Roaring Year

The Zoo's superstar lion cubs celebrated their first birthday this fall.

Photographs by Mehgan Murphy

 

On August 31, 2010, Shera, one of the Zoo’s lionesses, gave birth to four cubs. Her pridemate Naba bore three more, on September 22. The seven bundles of fur and fang swiftly mesmerized Washington, capturing headlines and luring visitors.


This portfolio collects scenes from the young lions’ lively first year — a high point in National Zoo history.

 

lion cubs

AWW-INSPIRING: First glimpses of the cubs showed them huddling in their dens.

 

FIRST CHECKUPS: A few weeks after each litter was born, keepers and veterinarians pulled the cubs from the den for their initial examinations. All seven proved healthy.

 

SWIM TEST: A moat encloses the Great Cats exhibit, so cubs had to prove they could cope with water before going outside.

 

SNOW! Last December brought the cubs a taste of snowfall. The cold chilled neither the cats’ spirits nor their curiosity.

 

BIG NAME: Stars from the Chronicles of Narnia film series came to the Zoo to name one of the cubs Aslan after the wise, brave lion in the movies.

 

lion cub eating meat

CUDDLY KILLERS: Roughly half a year old, the cubs proved adept at eating meat, the mainstay of their adult diet.

 

PROUD PAPA? Luke, the sire of all seven cubs, often seemed beset by his offspring, but he matched their exuberance with endurance.

 

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Smithsonian Zoogoer 40(6) 2011. Copyright 2011 Friends of the National Zoo. All rights reserved.