The Lions in Winter: Cubs Get Their Names and Debut in Public

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From the moment the National Zoo's seven lion cubs were born this fall, we've been waiting with great anticipation for the chance to meet them in person. We've seen them through their first physical exams and a swim test to make sure they can get across the moat in the Zoo yards. Recently, the first lion cub was named Aslan after the famous lion from C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series. Finally, this weekend, the Zoo announced the names of the six other lion cubs and let the little superstars test out their habitat. Starting today, the cubs will be conditionally on exhibit for all to see (keepers will evaluate the weather and make a decision each day). To see them online, view our photo gallery of the cutest cubs in the Smithsonian (for now...)

The names of Shera's cubs, born August 31, are:

John: This cub was given the name John after John Berry, director of the National Zoo from 2006 to 2009. Berry was instrumental in bringing the cub's mother Shera, her sister Nababiep and the father, Luke, to the Zoo in 2006.

Fahari (pronounced fa-HAH-ree): This name means "magnificent" in Swahili. It was chosen by the National Zoo advisory board because when she was first born, she had a ravenous appetite and was bigger than all the other cubs, even her brother. Though she no longer holds the distinction as being the biggest cub, keepers are sure she'll keep her larger-than-life personality.

Zuri (ZUH-ree): It was only fitting for the Friends of the National Zoo board to name this cub Zuri, which means "beautiful" in Swahili. Zuri has the thickest, softest fur of all the cubs.

Lelie (la-LEE-ay): The first-grade classroom at Marshall Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia, won the video contest to name a cub, which we announced last month. Afrikaans for "lily." The students chose it because lilies are a common flower at Kruger Park, the largest national park in South Africa and home to about 2,000 African lions.

The three cubs born to Nababiep on September 22 are named:

Baruti (ba-ROO-tee): The Bright Horizons daycare class in Arlington won the video contest with the best male name for a cub. The name is African and means "teacher." Keepers described the lion as calm and quiet, so the class thought this to be fitting.

Aslan: On December 10, Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes, actors in The Chronicles of Narnia movies, visited the Zoo and named him Aslan after the "Great Lion" in the series. Aslan is Turkish for "lion."

Lusaka (lu-SAH-ka): Last January, the Zoo lost an 18-year-old lioness named Lusaka who held a special place in the hearts of her keepers as the matriarch of the lions. This cub was the only female of the bunch, so she was given the name Lusaka in memory of the late lioness.

Beginning today, zookeepers will decide on a daily basis whether or not to let the lion cubs roam their outdoor digs. This will depend primarily on the weather and on how well the cubs adjust to being out and about. Read updates from the Zoo’s lion keepers and check for news on the Zoo’s Twitter feed and Facebook page.

Behind the Scenes with the National Zoo's Lion Cubs

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