Some of the top predators on the planet live at the Great Cats exhibit, including African lions and Sumatran tigers. At each habitat, visitors can learn about the cats’ characteristics, including social structure, hunting, reproduction and the Smithsonian's National Zoo’s efforts to care for and conserve these species.
Three outdoor habitats are home to the Zoo’s lions and tigers. Visitors may catch a glimpse of the cats patrolling the edge of the moat. On hot days, the cats — and Sumatran tigers, in particular — may choose to take a swim! Online visitors can also catch a glimpse of the lions on the Lion Cam.
The North American porcupine, black-tailed prairie dog and Patagonian mara habitats are located just across Olmsted Walk from Great Cats.
A Safe Place to Call Home
All lion and tiger cubs born at the Great Cats exhibit must undergo a swim reliability test and prove that they are able to keep their heads above water, navigate to the shallow end of the moat and climb onto dry land. It is possible that a cub could be knocked into the moat by a parent or sibling while playing. Therefore, animal care staff want to make sure that if a cub finds itself in that situation, it knows how to pull itself out of the water and onto shore. During the swim test, keepers stand guard and gently guide cubs in the right direction.