Swat team: Kya's cubs show some 'apex predator attitude'

October 14, 2014 - 12:25pm

Zoo's 5-week-old lions nip, swipe and swat at one another in new maternity-den video

They look like fuzzy, spotted plush toys, so cute you'd like to hold them close and cuddle. But at just 5 weeks old, three African lion cubs born at the Oregon Zoo last month are already practicing the skills that will make them among the most fearsome predators on the planet.

In video obtained during yesterday's weekly check-in, the cubs — recently named Hasani, Mashavu and Niara in an online vote — can be seen playfully nipping at each others' ears, and swatting and swiping at each other with oversize paws.

"There's no denying the cuteness factor right now," said curator Jennifer Davis, who oversees the zoo's Africa section. "They are still just these little fuzzballs, smaller even than some housecats. But their paws are enormous, and they're already starting to show some of that apex predator attitude. Lions are born with an instinct to chase and hunt, and it's through play like this that they develop their skills and coordination. We're seeing the beginnings of that now."

Davis said first-time mom Kya, who gave birth to the cubs Sept. 8, continues to be nurturing and protective — and as the energetic cubs continue to develop, they'll no doubt test their mom's patience by practicing some moves on her as well.

"I have no doubt Kya's tail will become an object for her cubs to pounce on before too long," Davis said. "It's very natural and all part of becoming a lion."