Zoo’s lion cubs make debut

By Vyomika Jairam
Federal News Radio

They’re out! The National Zoo’s seven lion cubs are now on exhibit. They made their debut Sunday afternoon at the lion enclosure. Four of the cubs were born on Aug. 31 and the other three on Sept. 22 to the Zoo’s two adult female lions, Shera and Nabapiep. They were the first lions cubs born at the Smithsonian Zoo in over 20 years, and all seven were fathered by Luke, the Zoo’s male adult lion.

Over the past few months, the Zoo has been posting updates on the cubs, from medical check-ups, swimming tests and their first meeting their father Luke.

The Zoo teamed up with the Washington Post to host a “Name a Lion Cub: Cam Contest” in which the public could submit their recommendations for names for one male and one female cub. The submissions had to be one-minute long videos explaining the recommendation. The Zoo then picked six finalists for the public to vote on.


Shera’s cubs, born Aug. 31 are:

  • John Named after OPM director and former Zoo director John Berry, he is the only male in Shera’s litter. Berry served as the Zoo’s director when Shera, Naba and Luke were brought to the Zoo in 2006.
  • Fahari Meaning “magnificent” in Swahili, the name was chosen by the National Zoo advisory board because she was initially the biggest cub in her litter.
  • Zuri Also a Swahili word, the name means “beautiful” and was chosen by the Friends of the National Zoo.
  • Lelie An Afrikaans work, Lelie was the female name picked from the naming contest. It was submitted by first-grade classroom at Marshall Elementary School in Manassas, Va., and means “lily.”

Nabapiep’s cubs, born Sept. 22:

  • Baruti The male name picked from the naming contest, it means “teacher” and was submitted from by a daycare class at Bright Horizons Child Care & Education at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va.
  • Aslan Named after the lion from the Chronicles of Narnia series, he was named in early December and was visited by actors from the recent “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” film.
  • Lusaka From the Zoo: “The name Lusaka holds a special place at the Zoo-it is the name of the beloved 18-year-old lioness that died at the Zoo last January. The lion keepers decided it would be a nice tribute to the lion who they considered the matriarch of the lion/tiger house and describe as having an “overload of personality.” Keepers picked this cub in particular because she was Nababieps’s sole female cub, and sometimes they see the older Lusaka reflected in Nababiep’s disposition.”

The cubs will be out in the lion yard daily at 12:30 and 1:30 p.m., pending weather and health. Updates on the National Zoo’s lions can be found here, and the cubs can be seen on the Cub cam