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All wet! Tiger cubs make incredibly cute faces as they take swim test

Nov. 7, 2013 at 10:33 AM ET

Video: Two of the latest additions to the Smithsonian National Zoo passed a big test this week by learning to swim on their own, which means the public may get their first in-person glimpse of the baby tigers soon. NBC News’ Kristen Welker reports.

Like kids at summer camp and even some college students, the National Zoo’s tiger cubs had to take a swim reliability test on Wednesday morning to prove they’re fit to go on exhibit. And the results are in: They passed!

Rare Sumatran tiger cubs Bandar and Sukacita managed to keep their heads above water during the exam, paddling to the shallow end of the moat before climbing back onto land. At just over 3 months old, they will soon be free to explore their exhibit space with mom, 4-year-old Damai, who gave birth at the zoo on Aug. 5.

A three-month-old Sumatran tiger cub named "Bandar" shows his displeasure after being dunked in the tiger exhibit moat for a swim reliability test at ...
Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
A three-month-old Sumatran tiger cub named Bandar isn't too happy about being dunked in the water during his swim test on Wednesday.


National Zoo
National Zoo
One of the National Zoo's tiger cubs doggy paddles across the moat to pass a swim test.

“Tigers are one of the few species of cats that enjoy taking a dip in water,” curator of great cats Craig Saffoe said in a zoo press release. “The moat exists for the safety of our visitors, but it could present an obstacle for young cats. Our job is to make sure that if the cubs venture into the moat, they know how and where to get out.”

National Zoo
National Zoo
An animal keeper helps a cub into the water.

During the exam, animal keepers Dell Guglielmo and Marie Magnuson navigated the cubs through 2 and a half feet of water until they reached the other side. Though they successfully made it across, the cubs aren't free to roam around the exhibit just yet. Starting Nov. 18, animal keepers will decide whether they are able to play in the yard on a day-to-day basis as the cubs get used to the great outdoors.

Sukacita, a female tiger cub, gets dried off by biologist Leigh Pitsko after passing her swim test with flying colors.
Win McNamee / Getty Images
Sukacita, a female tiger cub, gets dried off by biologist Leigh Pitsko after passing her swim test with flying colors.

Bandar and Sukacita are the first tiger cubs born at the zoo since 2006. The birth was a rare one: there are only 65 Sumatran tigers living in North American zoos and an estimated 400 to 500 left in the wild, according to the zoo. 

“These cubs represent hope for their critically endangered species’ future, so we need to take every precaution to ensure their survival,” Saffoe added in the statement.

Bandar gets tossed into the deep end for his swim test.
GARY CAMERON / Reuters
Bandar gets tossed into the deep end for his swim test.
After passing his swim test, Bandar climbs out of the moat.
GARY CAMERON / Reuters
After passing his swim test, Bandar climbs out of the moat.
Back on dry land after her swim test, tiger cub Sukacita gets bundled up by biologist Leigh Pitsko.
Win McNamee / Getty Images
Back on dry land after her swim test, tiger cub Sukacita gets bundled up by biologist Leigh Pitsko.


Natioal Zoo
Natioal Zoo
Almost to the edge!
National Zoo
National Zoo
The cub makes it to dry land, passing the test.
National Zoo
National Zoo
The cub gets a lift out of the pool.
National Zoo
National Zoo
An animal keeper towel dries the cub.

Can't get enough of the cubs? Check out the zoo's tigercam

Speaking of fun with tiger cubs, a young boy in a tiger costume had one fooled into thinking he was the cub's new feline friend. Two-year-old Marshall Shaffer and a tiger cub at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash., ran back and forth on the other side of the glass. Adorableness ensued.

Video: Two-year old Marshall Shaffer’s tiger costume fooled a real expert when a tiger cub at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium’s thought Marshall was a new feline playmate.


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