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National Zoo Shows Off 'Animaletes'

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The National Zoo's two three-month-old cheetah will be named for the top American runners in this summer's Olympic Games.
Jen Zoon, Smithsonian's National Zoo
The National Zoo's two three-month-old cheetah will be named for the top American runners in this summer's Olympic Games.

Athletes are in London for the start of the Olympics, but in D.C., animals at the National Zoo are competing in games of their own.

In front of an appreciate crowd of young children, a trio of banded mongooses are kicking a soccer ball around. It's part of the National Zoo Games, a series of events to help the animals stay active and healthy.

"This is just a great exercise for them," says Pamela Baker-Masson, with the National Zoo. "They're banded mongoose, we can call them 'Beckham Mongoose.'"

Baker-Masson says the games are a way to honor the wildlife. "We are going to celebrate our athletes overseas and watch them, but what we have are 'animaletes' at the national zoo."

Those "animaletes" include squirrels looking for peanut butter in Olympic rings. And perhaps the most athletic are the tigers.

"They'll place one of their frozen bunnies way up high on an item to see that tiger clawing up and get that bunny," explains Baker-Masson.

As part of the games, the newest members of the zoo, two cheetah cubs, will be named after the top American male and female runners in the 100 meter dash.

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