Animals & Attractions

We have five Asiatic lions in our collection here at Edinburgh Zoo.

Our male lion arrived with us in June 2012 from Bristol Zoo. His name is Jayendra and he was born in December 2010. Our lioness is called Roberta and she was born in April 2013. She arrived at Edinburgh Zoo from Magdeburg Zoo, Germany in October 2014.

In August 2019, Roberta and Jayendra became parents to a litter of cubs. The three cubs have been named Mitaali, Keshari and Kushanu in tribute to the Gir forest in western India where the species is found. The youngsters will stay with their parents until they are around two years old. 

Location in the zoo

Our Asiatic lions can be seen in our lion enclosure near the top of the zoo.

Breeding Programme

Our lions are part of the European Endangered Species programme (EEP).

Roberta arrived at the zoo in October 2014, but was not properly introduced to Jay until April 2015. Such introductions are always a slow process as it is important to ensure the pair familiarise themselves first and get used to each other’s presence. The two were put in the same area, but separated to begin with, allowing the pair to become accustomed to each other’s scent. Once Roberta was more settled and ready, she was introduced to Jay under the watchful eye of her keepers.

Roberta was specifically selected to be paired with resident male Jay through the EEP, which is run by a Species Coordinator and is supported by experts at other zoos across Europe. She was chosen as the best match for Jay due to her genetic characteristics, as it is extremely important to conserve the genetics of the species, for future generations, enabling the future generations to be possibly reintroduced back into the wild if the need arises.

In The Wild

Asian lion (Panthera leo persica) originally had large populations across southwest Asia. Today, there is only a very small remnant population located in India’s Gir Forest with only an estimated 350 left in the wild.

The Asian lion differs from the African lion in several ways. Asian lions are generally smaller than their African cousins, and the males do not develop such a substantial mane, so their ears are more visible. Both species of lions live in groups called prides; however, the Asian pride is smaller. An Asian lion pride usually has two lionesses and cubs, while the African pride has four to six adult females. Male Asian lions do not spend much time with their prides unless it is to feed or breed.

Asian lions live on a diet of deer, antelope, wild boar and water buffalo. All of the lionesses in the pride hunt together to overpower their prey. Males hardly ever hunt, but will assist the females if they are hunting a large, aggressive animal. Regardless of whether the male has helped or not, he always gets to eat first.

Since the Asian lion now exists as an isolated population, the species is vulnerable to a number of threats from unpredictable events such as forest fires or epidemics. Poaching, habitat destruction, conflict with humans and domestic cattle, and declining numbers of prey animals present further threats to this highly vulnerable species.

As a result of this strict guidelines prevent zoos from holding both African and Asian lions for fear of disease transmission or potential hybridisation.

Lion enrichment at Edinburgh Zoo

Fun Facts!

  • There are only several hundred Asiatic lions in the wild, and they only live in Gir Forest, India

  • Asiatic lions are only active for about 4 hours a day, spending the remainder sleeping or at rest

  • Asian lions are slightly smaller than African lions

Asian Lion Pics!

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