Lions look set to be the ‘mane’ attraction in Fota Wildlife Park with the arrival of two Asian female lions in recent days.

Gita and Gira have just arrived in Fota after a journey across six countries from Helsinki in Finland.

A male Asian lion from a Spanish Zoo is due to join the two females at Fota later this summer to hopefully start a new pride.

Gita and Gira will be homed in the park’s newest addition — the Asian Sanctuary — which is already home to a number of critically endangered species including both the Sumatran tiger, Indian rhino, Francois langur, and Visayan warty pigs.

Compared to their African cousins, Asian lions have shaggier coats, with a longer tassel on the end of the tail and longer tufts of hair on the elbows.

The mane of the Asian lion is generally shorter than that of the African lion, so the ears are always visible. Asian lions are, in general, slightly smaller than African lions. The Asiatic lion once roamed across the Middle East and Asia, from Greece to Bangladesh, However, by the early 1900s, the species had been hunted to the brink of extinction. Today, an estimated 500 Asiatic lions exist in the wild, living in the Indian state of Gujarat, Western India.

The species is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Director of Fota Wildlife Park, Seán McKeown, said the park is committed to the conservation of the species and that in the long-term it hopes to contribute to the captive breeding programme: “Protecting the remaining Asiatic lions in the wild is crucial to enable the population to grow and ensure the future survival of this irreplaceable species.”

The Asian lions will be visible to visitors at the Asian Sanctuary in Fota Wildlife Park from tomorrow.


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