Fota-born Asiatic lioness, Arya, returns!

Fota-born Asiatic lioness, Arya, returns to Fota Wildlife Park from Helsinki Zoo as part of European Endangered Breeding programme.

Fota Wildlife Park is delighted to announce the return of the six-year-old Asiatic lioness, Arya, after a period of four years at Helsinki Zoo where she was transferred under the European Endangered Breeding programme with her sister, Amira to live with their maternal grandmother.

Arya and Amira were the two female lionesses born from the first ever litter of Asian lions at Fota Wildlife Park. Arya, Amira and Loki, a male, were born from mother Gira and Dad, Shanto in August 2017.

Lead Ranger, Julien Fonteneau said “It’s just amazing to see Arya back in the place she was born, mixing with her mother Gira and aunt Gita. It’s rare that an animal would be sent back to the place they were born, and we are thrilled that she is back home so to speak. She arrived back in July of last year. The European Breeding Programme approved of her relocation after four years in Helsinki as unfortunately she was ousted by the other lionesses there. Once at Fota, there was a long reintroduction process that involved very careful planning and socialisation to ensure that she settled into the pride, who were essentially her Mum and aunt, plus the new male, Yali. This took place over many weeks, it’s a very specialised process, that’s very much dictated by the needs and the responses of the individual animals. However, we’re delighted to say that she’s a lot less shy that she initially was and appears to have bonded very well with the pride.

Julien continued, “Arya has been recommended to breed with Yali and judging by their interactions to date, we may not be waiting that long for our next litter!”

The Asiatic Lion Habitat was officially opened in Fota Wildlife Park in 2016. Two litters of lion cubs have been born in the park to date.

The Asiatic lion is a subspecies of the genus Panthera that split from African lions around 100,000 years ago. Since the turn of the 20th century, its range is restricted to Gir National Park and the surrounding areas in the Indian state of Gujarat. The species commonly referred to as the Indian or Gir lion. Asiatic lions were once widespread from the Mediterranean to India and Iran, covering most of Southwest Asia, where it was also known as the Persian lion, however there are now 500-600 left in the wild in Inda.

Like their African cousins, male Asiatic lions have a mane, although it is much shorter, darker and doesn’t cover their ears. Mating is not seasonal and takes place all year round. Male Asiatic lions reach sexual maturity at around five years old while female Asian lions reach sexual maturity earlier at around four years of age. The gestation period lasts for between 114– 118 days after which one to five cubs are born.

Fota Wildlife Park is open daily from 9.30am, see for further details, ticket prices and details on annual passes, the best value entry is by booking online.

Image credits: Darragh Kane