IN ANIMALS ON 5TH JUL 2024

Three Male Lion Cubs Born at Fota

Fota Wildlife Park is thrilled to announce the birth of three male endangered Asiatic lion cubs to mother Arya, who recently returned from Helsinki Zoo and who was part of the first lion cub litter to be born at the Park.

Six-year-old Arya was paired with the male lion Yali, and their cubs were born on the 5th of June. Eight-year-old Yali is the most genetically significant Asiatic lion in the European Breeding Programme.

The Asiatic lion is classified as endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and 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. The current population in the Gir Forest is estimated to be in the region of 500 to 600 lions.

“We are overjoyed with the birth of Arya’s cubs,” said Lead ranger Julien Fonteneau, “Arya and Yali’s cubs are not just vital to our breeding programme but also to the global efforts in preserving the Asiatic lion population. In a first for Fota Wildlife Park, Yali was present at the birth of his three cubs, normally the male lions would not attend the birth of their young.  One of our team members here quipped that Yali is a very modern father!

“Although inexperienced, Arya is excelling as a new mother and is very protective. We have been monitoring the cubs daily and they all appear to be well fed and active. She has been caring for the cubs outdoors under the foliage and out of sight. Whenever it rains, she carries them to the heated lion shelter, which our visitors know well. While they are still very young and sleeping a lot, it is possible to catch a glimpse of them at the lion shelter.”

Juien continued: “Arya’s journey has been remarkable. Born and raised at Fota Wildlife Park, she spent a few years at Helsinki Zoo, but was eventually ousted by the other lionesses. Earlier this year, Arya returned to her roots at Fota to live with her mother, Gira, and her aunt, Gita. Now, she has continued the lineage of Asiatic lions at Fota Wildlife Park. Her mate, Yali, who joined Fota in the summer of 2022, is a crucial figure in the European Breeding Programme due to the rarity of his DNA.”

The arrival of this litter marks the first lion birth at Fota Wildlife Park since 2019, a significant milestone in the Park’s ongoing conservation efforts for this endangered species. There are now seven Asiatic lions at Fota Wildlife Park, Arya and her three cubs, the two first lions to arrive at Fota, sisters Gira and Gita and the male lion, Yali who arrived from Paignton Zoo in the UK almost two years ago as part of a European Endangered Breeding Programme.

Visitors can now be in with a chance to see Arya and her cubs at the Asian Sanctuary when they visit Fota Wildlife Park. Fota Wildlife Park is calling on the public to help name the three male cubs, for an opportunity to win one of three annual Conservation passes, enter via the form below.

Image credits: Darragh Kane

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