New Lion Cubs at the National Zoo

Allow me to introduce you to Luke. The King of the Jungle, the master of the National Zoo. A Black Maned Lion that is a proud father of six new lion cubs at the Smithsonian National Zoo.


We arrived mid morning to the Lion pen, awaiting the release of the lion cubs for their mid-day turnout. Luke was resting easily on top of the hill, having a light snooze while keeping a watchful eyes on the human visitors.

In 2012, half sisters, Shera and Nababiep had their first babies by Luke and all of their children have moved on to other zoos by late 2013. Making room for a new family, March “came in like a lion” and four cubs were born to Shera and Nababiep had two cubs.

On June 13th, the full pride were released together into the lion den with six little lion cubs bounding all over. We anxiously awaited for the doors to open to release the cubs and all of a sudden, there they were!

Their moms following close behind, licking them at each pass.

Looking back up at Luke, who was having a peaceful morning, he looked a bit annoyed. It’s as if he was thinking “Darn! I thought I had gotten rid of them!” He wasn’t really in the mood to play, but it didn’t stop the cubs to taunt him a bit. Luke showed them his displeasure and they kept a respectful distance. That is, until another decided to give it a try.

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Lots of loving was going on during the summer day. Moms loved to grab their cubs and give them a big lick and cubs loved to hug their moms.

It was a wonderful morning spending it with Luke and his new pride and I promise to get back there soon.

For the photogs, today was a white balance mess. I decided to not use Auto White Balance which is what I usually do and used Cloudy white balance as it was..well, cloudy. With the green tones of the plantings, and the oranges in the concrete and lions everything was all off. Even trying to adjust with Lightroom to daylight it became to blue, so each series had to be customized with the white balance. Also because of the low light I had to use a low f/stop and high 1600 ISO which I really don’t like doing. A sunny day would be so much better, but the trade off would be dark contrasts with lights and shadows. Ah the challenges of a nature photographer.

26 replies »

  1. So beautiful to see nature stick to their natural instincts still, I bet the father was hoping to hug ‘n play with them but he has to maintain the prideful look πŸ™‚ great shots!

    • OH I missed one of the best parts. So the kids came out with the moms in tow. One of the moms went up to Luke, growled at him and smacked him across the face. She was telling him to behave with the kids. LOL!

      Truly, Luke wasn’t in the mood to play and wasn’t shy telling the kids about it. πŸ™‚

    • I wouldn’t mess with mom. They meant business, but loving too. Thanks for the compliment. They had put up a new fence that I had to shoot through. I wasn’t happy to see it, but they had installed it to prevent deer from jumping into the lion den.

  2. These photos are fantastic! You clearly got the image processing perfect because these look so natural.

    I was just at the National Zoo last week and missed these adorable little cubs! (I did get to see the baby panda so I can’t complain too much. πŸ˜‰ ) Thanks for sharing!

    • You need to go back Christina. Their first official day out was the 13th. They are out from 11am – 1pm. Also catch the 2pm feeding of the Black Crowned Night Herons. Haven’t seen the baby panda yet, is she big?

      • The baby panda is still small enough to be super adorable. I’ll post my photos soon. (It was humid the day I went so it’s tough to edit these images.) The baby panda crowds have thinned so its a better to visit them now.

        • Oh that is great news ! When I was there for the cubs I thought of stopping by but thought the panda would be big. Certainly will make an effort to go and visit her than. Thanks!

  3. Wonderful pics. Emily. Luke is absolutely majestic, and the cubs are adorable. You really captured the playfulness of the cubs and the interaction of the parents, perfectly. πŸ™‚

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