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PORTLAND Zoo keepers are working to baby-proof the outdoor lion exhibit at the Oregon Zoo so the new cubs can safely venture out, in view of the public.

All the conditions need to be just right, said Laura Weiner, senior keeper of the zoo s Africa area. Their welfare will be the guiding principle on when or if they re out.

The African lion cubs were born on September 7 to Neka, a first-time mom. One female cub had to be taken from the den two weeks later, for special care after she stopped nursing. She was stabilized and then returned to her mom and has been thriving since.

Neka has been nurturing the cubs inside her private maternity den as they grow every day. But the curious cubs are showing signs they want to move around more.

The cubs already frolicked outside for a short period in the sunshine earlier this week. But before they can venture out on a regular basis, zoo keepers will need to drain the pool and the moat, among other things, to be sure the little ones don t get hurt.

The moat will also be lined with straw for safety.

If any of the cubs decide to roll down the hill, they ll have a soft landing, Weiner said. We re not sure they ll venture out that far, but we want to be prepared just in case.

The cubs official public debut may not happen until spring, when they re a little bigger and temperatures are consistently higher, according to zoo keepers.

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