Today Fota Wildlife Park announced to the public the birth of four Asian lion cubs (Panthera leo persica) who were born on the 20th February to second time parents, mother Gira and father Shanto.
The eight-week-old cubs were born along with a fifth cub who was stillborn. The new cubs join their parent’s first litter who are now one and a half years old – Amira, Arya and Loki and aunt Gita in their specially designed habitat in Fota Wildlife Park. As yet the cubs are unsexed and unnamed and Fota Wildlife Park is calling on the public to help name them and be in with a chance to win one of four a year-long Conservation Annual Pass (Competition now closed)
Lead Ranger Kelly Lambe said “We are thrilled with the arrival of this litter of four Asian lion cubs at Fota Wildlife Park. This species is endangered and now inhabits only one remaining site in the world – the Gir Forest, in India, which means that wildlife parks and zoos play a crucial role in safeguarding the species and maintaining the genetic diversity outside of the pocket of the wild population. Unfortunately, one of the cubs was stillborn however, five in a litter in extremely rare and we are delighted that there are four cubs thriving and they are all feeding and bonding well with Mum Gira. It’s Gira’s second litter with our male lion, Shanto, and she is a protective mum. We vaccinated and weighted them all yesterday and they all weight exactly the same – 7.15kg.”
Fota Wildlife Park opened the Asian Sanctuary in 2015, and it is now home to some of Asia’s most endangered species such as the Indian rhino, the Sumatran tiger and the Asian lion. The pride of Asian lions at Fota Wildlife Park features the male Shanto, aged eight, who came from Zoo de Santillana in Spain and two sisters Gira and Gita, both aged five, who came from Helsinki Zoo in Finland in the summer of 2016. The pride was added in to in August 2017 with the birth two females and a male cub – Amira, Arya and Loki.
Almost all the world’s population of wild lions live in sub-Sharan Africa except for the Asian lion which inhabits the Gir Forest in India which is now a reserve for this endangered species. Fota Wildlife Park, a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, (EAZA) participates in the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme (EEP) for Asian lions. There are now only 500 Asian lions living in the wild therefore the cooperative breeding programmes that zoos and wildlife parks do, such as the birth of the cubs at Fota Wildlife Park, is an essential safeguard against a severe decline to the wild population, which may be vulnerable to disease or other factors such as natural disaster.
Fota Wildlife Park is set on 100 acres in the heart of Cork Harbour and is open daily from 10am. Fota Wildlife Park is a non- profit conservation organisation and is part of the Zoological Society of Ireland.
Image credit: Darragh Kane