Just like human children, life for a lion cub is all about play, and our 6-month-old lion cubs – Willa, Uma and Kya – love to play!
So much more than just a fun way to pass the time, play also helps little lions develop and grow. By running, climbing and wrestling, they practice their gross motor skills and develop physical strength and coordination.
Play is also enriching for their minds. Mental stimulation triggered by playing with each other and a variety of toys, which could be anything from a ball to a stick to Daddy’s mane, builds big, clever brains.
Social play like chasing, roughhousing and playing keep-away with each other is important for bonding. The pride that plays together, stays together!
Play also helps our budding predators practice and hone their stalking and hunting skills.
In the wild, learning through play is critical to a lion’s survival. Over in Kenya’s South Rift Valley, where the Zoo partners on a community-based conservation program to restore healthy lion populations called Rebuilding the Pride, lioness Nasha’s three girls are growing up fast! Born in April 2014, these sisters are just over a year old. Researchers recently captured some of their playful antics on camera – a good sign that these cubs are developing and learning the skills they’ll need in future life.
When is the best time to catch our lion cubs at play? Your best bet is to visit the Africa exhibit first thing in the morning or much later in the day, avoiding the heat of the day when the lions are most likely to just be “lion” around. (Sorry for the bad pun. I just couldn’t resist.)