Twin lion cubs born at Bristol Zoo Gardens in Clifton

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By SimonPeevers | Friday, February 25, 2011, 16:33

Twin Asiatic lion cubs have been born at Bristol Zoo Gardens

in Clifton, which is fantastic success for all those involved at the city zoo.

The cubs - a boy and a girl - are just 10 weeks old and were

born on Christmas eve to first time mum, Shiva, and dad Kamal. The news is even

more welcome as these magnificent creatures are critically endangered in the

wild.

There are only around 400 Asiatic lions left in the wild and

since their birth, the cubs have been monitored in the cubbing den via a CCTV

system by Bristol Zoo’s experienced mammal team.

Keepers caught the moment of the cubs’ birth on video – an

extremely rare occurrence. To watch the video of the cubs’ birth and their

first few days of life, click here.

The cubs are tricky to spot as they still spend a lot of

time in a quiet, cubbing den not on view to the public, with their mother, or

hiding in the undergrowth of their outdoor enclosure.

Assistant Curator of Mammals, Mel Bacon, said: “We are

absolutely thrilled with the birth of these lion cubs. Asiatic lions are

critically endangered and on the brink of extinction, so every birth is

extremely valuable for the captive breeding programme for this species.”

This is the first time Bristol Zoo has bred cubs in 10 years

- previous cubs were born in 2001 and 1998.

Mel added: “Both cubs are fit, healthy and strong and have

been suckling well, and Shiva is proving to be an excellent first-time mother.

The cubs have recently started to eat meat and are getting more adventurous,

exploring their enclosure. However, they are still quite shy, so visitors will

need to be a little bit patient to catch a glimpse of these beautiful animals.”

Although only 400 animals remain in the Gir Forest Sanctuary

in northern India, 2000 years ago they once roamed the whole of the Middle

East. More recently they were widespread throughout northern India and

Pakistan, but their numbers have been drastically reduced by hunting and

habitat destruction.

To help protect the Asiatic lion from extinction, Bristol

Zoo Gardens is participating in an internationally co-ordinated conservation

breeding programme. There are fewer than 100 Asiatic lions in captivity

throughout the world and it is important to ensure that all lions are pure bred

and that pairs are not closely related to one another. Bristol Zoo’s cubs will

eventually be introduced to new, un-related, animals as part of the breeding

programme.

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