National Zoo’s African Lion Cubs Pass Swim Reliability Test and Explore Their Yard

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National Zoo’s African Lion Cubs Pass Swim Reliability Test and Explore Their Yard
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Image by Smithsonian’s National Zoo
In this photo: Keeper Kristen Clark with male lion cub Right Rib.

Photo Credit: Jen Zoon, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

May 6, 2014

Four African lion cubs took a brisk paddle at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo today and passed their swim reliability test. The cubs—three males and one female—were born at the Zoo March 2. All cubs born at the Great Cats exhibit must undergo the swim reliability test and prove that they are ready to be on exhibit. All four cats were able to keep their heads above water, navigate to the shallow end of the moat and climb onto dry land. Now that they have passed this critical step, the cubs are one step closer to being ready to explore the yard with their mother, 9-year-old Shera. The 10-week-old cubs will make their public debut in mid-June once all vaccinations have been administered.

“As keepers, it’s our duty to take every precaution to ensure the cubs’ survival,” said Kristen Clark, an animal keeper at the Great Cats exhibit. “It’s possible that a cub could be playing around and get knocked into the moat by a parent or sibling. We want to make sure that if they find themselves in that situation, they know how to pull themselves out of the water and onto shore.”

Both cubs took the test under Clark’s guard, as she gently guided them in the right direction. The shallow end of the moat is approximately 2 ½ feet deep, which could present an obstacle for young cats. The side of the moat closest to the public viewing area is about 9 feet deep and is an essential safety barrier that effectively keeps the cats inside their enclosure.

In an adjacent exhibit, the two lion cubs born to mother Nababiep Jan. 24 explored their outdoor enclosure after passing their swim test in April. Starting Friday, May 9, keepers will decide on a day-to-day basis whether Naba’s two cubs will spend time in the yard from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. This decision will be based on weather and how the cubs adjust to being outdoors. The Zoo will continue to share the latest updates and photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Zoo received a recommendation to breed the lions from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for African lions. An SSP matches individual animals across the country for breeding in order to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining population. Luke, the Zoo’s 8-year-old male lion, sired all six cubs. The next step in building a pride at the Zoo is to introduce all nine lions into the same shared space. The first meeting between them took place April 24 and was captured on video.

“Introductions are always tense the first time you do them, but we always try to build on positive behaviors we’ve seen in the past,” said Rebecca Stites, an animal keeper at the Great Cats exhibit. “All lions seemed interested in one another and their interactions were positive during “howdy door” and face-to-face meetings. We’re gradually increasing the amount of time that the pride is together behind the scenes. Our hope is that they will all be on exhibit as one pride this summer.”

The pride social structure makes lions unique among the great cats, many of which are solitary animals. African lion populations in the wild have dwindled by 30 percent during the past 20 years as a result of poaching, disease and habitat loss. They are considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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Note: The full study is now attached to this story

Maybe you’ve told your daughter she can grow up to be an engineer or CEO if she wants to, but she may not really believe it if her dad doesn’t cook or clean, a new study suggests.

A group of psychologists at the University of British Columbia found that when a father performs a greater share of traditionally female household chores such as cooking, cleaning and childcare, his school-aged daughter is less likely to say she wants to pursue a stereotypical female career such as nursing, teaching or staying at home with the kids, and more likely to aspire to more gender-neutral (and often higher-paying) careers, such as becoming a doctor or lawyer.

A mother’s stated views on gender equality were linked to her children’s views. However, a father’s share of housework made a difference even if both he and the girl’s mother explicitly endorse gender equality, reported the study that will be published in the journal Psychological Science this week.

Read the full study

Boys tended to choose gender-stereotyped careers regardless of their father’s role at home.
Alyssa Croft

‘You may not realize how much kids are watching and observing and taking in beyond just what we’re telling them,’ says Alyssa Croft, lead author of the study. (Martin Dee/UBC)

"What this is suggesting is that when girls, specifically, are seeing their parents enacting a traditional division of labour at home, it may be limiting their own ambition," said Alyssa Croft, a PhD candidate who was the lead author of the study, in an interview with CBC News.

"It may just be restricting what they see themselves as capable of doing.… You may not realize how much kids are watching and observing and taking in beyond just what we’re telling them."

Croft acknowledged that researchers don’t know how the career aspirations of the children will be linked to what they end up doing when they grow up. However, she said they are a good indication of how children see themselves in the context of gender roles.
Actions speak louder than words

She said the effects seen in the study of 326 children aged seven to 13 and their parents were "definitely very significant, meaningful effects."

She advised parents to be aware of how they’re dividing their labour at home, if they say they believe in gender equality and really do believe in it.

Croft said she undertook the study because most previous studies about children’s gender stereotypes look mainly at the role of their parents’ jobs. She thought what parents do around the house might be more important, since children were more likely to see that.

To find out, she ran a series of tests on children recruited at Science World in Vancouver, along with at least one of their parents. For example, some part of the tests included descriptions of two people — one with more gender stereotypical characteristics and one with less — and asked the participant which one he or she was more like.

In a video interview produced by UBC, Croft said she thinks the findings of the study are important because "despite our best efforts to try and create gender egalitarian workplaces, women are still underrepresented in leadership and management positions." She added that the study suggests equality at home may inspire girls to pursue careers that they have traditionally been excluded from.

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