AboutZoos, Since 2008


Young Asian lion cubs cur­rently being hand-​reared at Bris­tol Zoo

pub­lished 03 Feb­ru­ary 2013 | mod­i­fied 03 Feb­ru­ary 2013

Asian lion bristolzooOn 9 Novem­ber, 2012, Bris­tol Zoo wel­comed two very spe­cial new addi­tions. Shiva, our Asian lioness, gave birth to two male lion cubs called Kam­ran and Ketan. This was an incred­i­bly impor­tant event for this crit­i­cally endan­gered species.

Unfor­tu­nately 12 days later on the 21 Novem­ber Kamal, our 18 year old lion and the father of the cubs, was put to sleep due to his severe dete­ri­o­rat­ing health in old age. Fol­low­ing the death of Kamal, Shiva began mis-​mothering her babies, forc­ing ani­mal and vet­eri­nary staff to make the dif­fi­cult and rare deci­sion to inter­vene and remove the two week old cubs for hand-​rearing.

As the cubs are still very young, they are off show to zoo guests, but can usu­ally be seen via a video link, shown on a screen at the front of the lion enclo­sure.

Below a youtube-​video fea­tur­ing the two cubs:

Hand-​rearing is a very demand­ing and chal­leng­ing process and is only ever a ‘last resort’. As their father, Kamal, was an impor­tant male for the con­ser­va­tion breed­ing pro­gramme, both lion cubs are also an impor­tant part of the future breed­ing pro­gramme. There are cur­rently only a few hun­dred Asian lions left in the wild, so every step had to be taken to ensure their sur­vival.

The ini­tial tran­si­tion was a very impor­tant time for the cubs,’ says Lynsey Bugg, Assis­tant Cura­tor of Mam­mals. ‘We placed straw from their pre­vi­ous enclo­sure on the ground for famil­iar­ity, and gave each cub a cud­dly toy to snug­gle into to mimic mum. We also worked closely with the vet team to mon­i­tor their fluid intake while we got both cubs used to feed­ing from arti­fi­cial teats.’

A team of five keep­ers are ded­i­cated to hand-​rearing the cubs who were ini­tially fed five times over a 24 hour period. In the early days, while the cubs got used to the new feed­ing régime, keep­ers could spend up to two hours doing each feed. Every day each cub has his weight, tem­per­a­ture and res­pi­ra­tory rate checked. The keep­ers mon­i­tor their level of activ­ity to ensure they’re pro­gress­ing well and have watched, and felt, both cubs cut their teeth.

Along­side the chal­lenge of feed­ing you need to be mind­ful of every­thing you do when hand-​rearing. We need to pre­vent the cubs from imprint­ing on the keep­ers, so we make sure we treat them the way that their mum would when we han­dle them.
(Lynsey Bugg)

This involves pick­ing them up by the scruff of the neck, brush­ing them with a coarse brush, which repli­cates them being licked by their mother’s coarse tongue, all to ensure they go on to be a fully func­tion­ing social ani­mal.

At nine and a half weeks old both cubs are doing well and begin­ning to reveal their indi­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties. They’re spend­ing more time out­side in an off-​show enclo­sure and are being weaned onto meat feeds.

I’m very proud of my team,’ says Lynsey. ‘How­ever, I’ll deem the hand-​rearing a suc­cess when our two young males are fully weaned and then go on to breed them­selves. After all, pro­tect­ing this incred­i­ble species is what we’re all work­ing towards.’

Bris­tol Zoo Gar­dens is a con­ser­va­tion and edu­ca­tion char­ity and relies on the gen­er­ous sup­port of the pub­lic not only to fund its impor­tant work in the zoo, but also its vital con­ser­va­tion and research projects span­ning five continents.

Asian lions

Although Asian lions (Pan­thera leo per­sica) are not assessed fot the IUCN Red LIst yet, they are con­sid­ered crit­i­cally endan­gered and are part of an inter­na­tion­ally co-​ordinated con­ser­va­tion breed­ing pro­gramme, man­aged by Twycross Zoo. There are just 350 Asian Lions left in the wild and they can only be found in the Gir For­est Sanc­tu­ary in North­ern India.

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at Bris­tol Zoo Gar­dens. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length.
(Source: Bris­tol Zoo news)

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