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Lion pride: Cubs born at Edinburgh Zoo a ‘lifeline’ for endangered breed

RARE lion cubs which exist in the wild in only one forest in India have been born at Edinburgh Zoo.

The endangered breed, Asiatic lions, were once common in parts of Asia but are now isolated to just the Gir Forest in Gujarat, where around 350 live in the wild.

But the population has been given a boost following the birth of three cubs in the Scottish capital.

Five were born in a litter at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s zoo three weeks ago but two died.

Mum Roberta is still nursing the surviving cubs and they have yet to be named.

Their father, Jayendra, who is staying with his young family, arrived in Edinburgh from Bristol Zoo in 2012, with Roberta following from Magdeburg Zoo in Germany two years later.

Alison MacLean, the zoo’s head of carnivores, said: ‘Mum and cubs are doing well and we are thrilled, though we remain cautious as this is still a very delicate stage, with two of the litter sadly not having survived.

‘Public viewing is therefore closed at the moment to give the family lots of peace and quiet.

‘The three cubs will be weighed and sexed during their first health check in the coming weeks. We will also name them shortly after.

‘Their dad Jayendra is being very affectionate and will stay with Roberta and her youngsters.’

Alison added: ‘The wild population is estimated to be only 350, with threats including poaching, habitat destruction, conflict with humans and a declining number of prey animals.

‘Roberta and Jayendra are part of the European endangered species programme, with every birth being a potential lifeline and increasing the possibility of future generations being reintroduced into the wild.’