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Twin lion cubs born at Bristol Zoo Gardens - 25/02/11

Twin Asiatic lion cubs have been born at Bristol Zoo Gardens - a conservation breeding success for these critically endangered animals.

Lion cubs in their den at Bristol ZooThe 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.

Asiatic lions are critically endangered and there are only around 400 left in the wild. 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 latest news and pictures of the cubs will be published on these pages and on their very own Facebook page here.

The cubs are tricky to spot as they still spend a lot of time in a quiet, off-show cubbing den 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.

Lion cubMel 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.”

In the wild Asiatic lions are critically endangered. Today only about 400 animals remain in the Gir Forest Sanctuary in northern India. Two thousand 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.



For press enquiries please contact Bristol Zoo’s press office:

Lucy Parkinson, T: 0117 974 7306 or E:

Vanessa Hollier, T: 0117 974 7309 or E:

Heather Holve, T: 0117 974 7308 OR e:


Notes to the Editor:


Asiatic Lions

  • Scientific name: Panthera leo persica
  • Habitat: Grasslands to desert
  • Country of Origin: Northern Greece, Southwest Asia, Central India (Now only found in the Gir Forest in India)
  • These lions are not from Africa. They are the rare Asiatic lion from India.  There are approximately 400 Asiatic lions remaining in the wild and they are found only in one small game reserve, smaller in area than the New Forest.
  • The Asiatic lion was once found in Eastern Europe, Turkey, the Middle East and most of India.  It became extinct in Europe around 100 A.D. and in Palestine around the time of the Crusades.  It remained widespread until the time of the advent of firearms in the mid 1800s, which led to widespread extinction through hunting as a sport.  In 1900, the Nawab of Junagadh, the local ruler, declared the few remaining lions in the Gir Forest protected animals. 
  • Asiatic lions live for about 17 years in the wild and up to 24 years in captivity.
  • They spend up to 20 hours of every day asleep.
  • Like their African cousins, Asian lions are social animals, living in units called prides.  However, the Asiatic pride is much smaller, with an average of only 2 females compared to the African pride, which has an average of four to six. The males are also less social and only associate with the pride when mating or on a large kill.  It has been suggested that this may be because of the smaller prey available in the Gir Forest.
  • Asiatic lions are critically endangered and are part of an internationally co-ordinated conservation breeding programme, managed by Twycross Zoo.
  • Shiva the lioness arrived at Bristol Zoo from Besançon Zoo in France in July 2010 as a mate for Kamal.
  • Shiva is five years old and these are her first cubs.
  • Kamal, Bristol Zoo’s male lion, was born in Helsinki Zoo in 1994 and arrived at Bristol Zoo in 2008.
  • Shiva has not had cubs before and so the birth is very important to the captive breeding programme for this species. She is proving to be an excellent first-time mother.


Bristol Zoo Gardens

  • Bristol Zoo is open from 9am every day except Christmas Day. 
  • Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on income from visitors and supporters to continue its important work. 
  • In 2011 Bristol Zoo celebrates its 175th anniversary and wants to do more than celebrate.
  • Over that past 175 years, the Zoo has brought six generations of Bristolians closer to wildlife, helped save over 175 species from extinction, established over 30 field conservation and research programmes all over the world, showed 40 millionschool-aged children the wonder of nature and given more than 90 million visitors a wonderful day out.
  • Throughout 2011 we’re bring people, businesses, charities and wildlife together to share amazing experiences that raise awareness and funds to save threatened wildlife and places. To find out more, visit
  • Bristol Zoo has supported and been actively in gorilla conservation in Cameroon since 1998.
  • Throughout 2011 we will be focusing our efforts on raising funds and awareness in support of gorilla conservation.
  • Throughout 2011 Bristol Zoo will support theEuropean Association of Zoos and Aquaria Ape Campaign.The campaign aims to make a significant and lasting contribution to the continued survival of apes and their habitats, and is being led by Dr Bryan Carroll, the Director of Bristol Zoo.
  • To find out more about the EAZA Ape Campaign visit the Zoo website at
  • Bristol Zoo is involved with more than 100 co-ordinated breeding programmes for threatened wildlife species. 
  • Itemploys over 150 full and part-time staff to care for the animals and run a successful visitor attraction to support its conservation and education work. 
  • Bristol Zoo supports – through finance and skill sharing - 15 projects in the UK and abroad that conserveand protectsome of the world’s most endangered species.
  • In 2010 Bristol Zoo Gardens set up a Conservation Fund to raise vital funds to help care for threatened animals and plants – both in the Zoo and through the conservation work we do in the UK and around the world.
  • Bristol Zoo Gardens is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums. BIAZA represents more than 90 member collections and promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums.