Cork Has a New King!
The new male Asiatic Lion has taken pride of place at Fota Wildlife Park! Shanto, who arrived to the Wildlife Park from Spain joins Gita and Gira, the two female lions who arrived in Fota earlier this year, and can be found in the new Lion Habitat in the wildlife park’s Asian Sanctuary. The Asiatic Lions join a number of critically endangered species in the Asian Sanctuary, including the Sumatran tiger, Indian rhino Francois langur and Visayan warty pigs.
By the early 1900s the number of the Asiatic lions which were once found from Europe to the Far East had dwindled so dramatically, almost to the point of extinction, that for many people today lions are still synonymous with Africa. Due to conservation initiatives, this small population is steadily increasing but the Asiatic Lion is still listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Asiatic Lion is still vulnerable to a number of threats from unpredictable events such as forest fires or disease. Poaching, habitat destruction, conflict with humans and declining numbers of prey animals also present a threat to this highly vulnerable species.
Sean McKeown, director of Fota Wildlife Park said, ‘It is very exciting for us to have the male Asiatic lion Shanto join the females in the enclosure here at the Fota Wildlife Park. The wildlife park hopes to contribute to the captive breeding programme for the Asiatic Lion, one of the world’s most endangered big cats. The population of almost 200 Asian lions within Zoos and Parks form an essential safeguard and genetic resource if disease, social economic factors or political issues cause a dramatic fall in the wild populations as has happened in the past.’
The Asiatic Lions at Fota Wildlife Park are to be part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme and it is hoped that the lions will breed in the future.
Though both the African and Asian Lion appear to be similar in appearance, they differ in many ways. Compared to their African cousins, Asian lions in general, are slightly smaller than African lions, have shorter, shaggier coats, with a longer tassel on the end of the tail and longer tufts of hair on the elbows. The Asiatic lion also has a longitudinal fold of skin running along their belly.
The Asian Lion (Panthera leo persica) is a subspecies of the lion which survives today only in India and therefore it is also known as the Indian or Gir lion. Asian Lions once ranged from the Mediterranean to India, covering most of Southwest Asia where it was also known as the Persian Lion.
Like their African cousins, Asian lions are highly sociable animals living in social units called prides. The Asian lion pride is smaller. Studies have shown that most Gir prides contain just two adult females as compared to the average African pride which contains 4 to 6 adult females.
Male Asian lions measure 1.7 – 2.5 metres long and weigh 150 – 250 kilograms, while female Asian lions measure 1.4 – 1.75 metres in length and weigh in at 120 – 182 kilograms. The Asian lions tail averages around 70 – 105 centimetres long.
Similar to most large cats Asian lions are equipped with powerful retractable claws and long sharp canine teeth that are used in dragging their prey to the ground.
The Asian lion is a carnivore. Its typical diet consists of deer, antelope, wild boar and buffalo.
Mating is not seasonal and takes place all year round. Male Asian lions reach sexual maturity at around 5 years old and female Asian lions reach sexual maturity earlier at around 4 years old. The gestation period last for between 100 – 119 days after which 1 – 6 cubs are born. Intervals between births can be 18 – 26 months.
Fota Wildlife Park is open 7 days a week, 363 days a year, including Bank Holidays, with the exceptions of Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day.