They look cuddly for now.

They look cuddly for now.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium gave the public its first in-person glimpse of the zoo's three lion cubs on Nov. 24.

The 9-week-old cubs were more playful than first-time mother Asali, who growled and leaped at onlookers from inside her enclosure. Zoo staff said the 4-year-old mom thought camera lenses were eyes and she was protecting her cubs.

Zoo officials initially thought the public wouldn't see the cubs until the spring, but new executive director Dale Schmidt said the cubs were doing better than expected and Asali was ready to bring them outside.

"It really depends on the mom and it depends on the weather," he said. "If she wants to take them out for the day, they'll go out."

The cubs, two girls and a boy, each weigh about 25 pounds. Animal care staff named the male cub Kitambi, which the zoo said means "pride" in Swahili.

The female cubs were named Adia and Mekita; the names were chosen through fundraising efforts.

While zoo visitors hadn't been given a chance to see the cubs, it was not their first time outside the den. Schmidt said the cubs were previously brought out a few minutes at a time and zoo staff members were placed along the boardwalk that surrounds the lion enclosure to get the cubs and their mother accustomed to people.

Visitors were given a treat during the debut. The three cubs pounced on logs and branches, and also wrestled each other.

Zoo visitors might not have the chance to see the lion cubs every day as temperatures fall, because Schmidt said the zoo will not let them outside if it's too cold. But that doesn't mean the cubs won't get the chance to experience snow this winter.

"What we do in certain temperatures is leave the door open so they can go out or not," he said. "What is neat is when it snows. They have a lot of fun with that."

The cubs were born Sept. 22 to Asali and 6-year-old Tomo, who lives in the enclosure next to the cubs.

The match between Asali and Tomo was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for African lions.

The cubs are the first born at the Columbus Zoo in 24 years.