Yesterday was the big day; the introduction of Asian lion Wishu to lioness Lalana. He was already introduced to Reena earlier. With this young, less dominant female, he was able to work on his self-confidence. That confidence has now received a huge boost, making it time for Lalana. The introduction was carefully planned for when Lalana was in estrus and thus a lot more relaxed. The animal keepers were able to determine her cycle through feces analysis in collaboration with our own veterinary lab.
Lalana and Wishu were paired together on the recommendation of the coordinator of the European population management program. They form an important match to expand the gene pool of this critically endangered species. The Asian lions in Blijdorp are part of a reserve population to spread the risks and prevent extinction. In the wild, Asian lions are only found in the Gir Forest National Park, a protected area in Northwest India. There, about 600 individuals live, all descended from a remaining group of twenty.
The young, inexperienced Wishu arrived last autumn from Planckendael (Belgium) and was shortly thereafter joined with Lalana's daughter. They grew attached to each other, allowing the group to be expanded with the older, more experienced Lalana. Asian lions often live in smaller groups than their African counterparts and are known to be less social.