Between August and September of last year the two lionesses of the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC gave birth to two litters of seven cubs between them. Since the cubs began to be allowed to go out to the exhibit along with its parents I’ve been dying to go to the zoo and spend some quality time taking pictures.
At the end of January during a chilly but gorgeous Sunday I finally went to the zoo, and what a sight it was! I arrived just at the time the whole pride was coming out to delight the great number of people surrounding the exhibit. I fought my way to find a prime spot for me and my equipment and began to shoot away….yep more than 500 shots in a bit more than an hour, but the little guys were so playful and restless that I just could not stop and risk missing a great photo opportunity.
The exhibit as well as the rest of the zoo were covered in snow so the background was incredibly beautiful and unique.
At this point I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves. During post production I managed to select down to 100 worth saving shots. This is a modest sample, and there is more at SNZ Lion Cubs
Before I go, I must say that although zoos and conservation organizations have been very successful in breeding lions in captivity. The reality is that like most of its feline cousins, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, etc., the wild lion faces a desperate future. Its wild lands are being consumed by exponentially growing human populations, as are the prey species on which it needs to survive. They are also poisoned, infected with deadly diseases brought by humans and livestock and worst of all they are still victims of trophy hunting ending in a wall or displayed as a carpet in somebody living room.
Numbers are in decline across much of Africa – down from nearly 76,000 in 1980 to less than 40,000 today. And since 2008 the magnificent symbol of Africa has become extinct in three of their former range states.
As Will Travers, CEO of the UK charity Born Free Foundation says: “we have a choice, to destroy or to protect, to squander or to save. If we cannot conserve with compassion, make room for and appreciate the wild lion, then no other species stands a chance. If wild lions go, then for the rest, it’s only a matter of time.”
Pictures were taken with a Canon 5D Mark II and a EF100 – 400f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM lens