Biblical Zoo lion

Israel’s Biblical Zoo officially has a new resident—a rare Asiatic lion named Gir.

Gir came to the zoo in Jerusalem late last month, just weeks after the site lost one of its iconic animals, another Asiatic lion named Lider who died at the age of 16.

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Gir, 2 years old, arrived at the zoo from Sweden, and joined Ileniya, a 16-year-old lioness already housed at the site. For now, the lions are kept in separate pens, with a window allowing them each to see the other, in the hopes they will eventually become friendly.

Zookeepers also have hopes Gir can be used for breeding, to help populate the heavily endangered breed. Asiatic lions are so rare, only about 600 exist in the world. Due to this, in breeding is very common, leading many Asiatic lions to be born with genetic problems. In fact, Lider himself was born sterile for that very reason.

Biblical Zoo staff is already looking into bringing a young Asiatic female to the site sometime this summer, to give the 330-pound Gir his best shot at breeding.

Gir’s new habitat includes an outside exploration area and a heated room he can retire to in the colder months.

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