DUBLIN Zoo is hopeful that its latest addition – a rare Asiatic lion – will father the first pride of lions at the zoo in decades.
Seven-year-old Kumar, who was born in captivity at Edinburgh Zoo, has already fathered several cubs at his most recent home in Rotterdam Zoo.
Zookeepers at Dublin Zoo are confident that he will get down to business with the zoo's lioness sisters Zuri and Sita and father the next generation of lion cubs as part of its international breeding programme for endangered species.
Judging by his keen paternal instincts that were revealed after he sired three litters of cubs at Rotterdam, he would make an excellent addition to the breeding programme, said zookeeper Ciaran McMahon.
"He's very socially well adjusted to the two females and we hope he'll produce two litters," he told the Irish Independent.
The last lion cubs born at the Dublin Zoo was back in 1989 and if Kumar mates successfully, he will produce the zoo's first-ever pride of Asiatic lions.
He has already asserted his dominance over the females with his menacing roar, which is a good sign that he will start mating, Mr McMahon said.
Aside from his potential breeding prowess, he's a lovely cat to watch, he added.
"He is a very proud and majestic animal but he's also very laid back," he said.
"He's the king of cool," he said of Kumar's regal pose as he lies on his haunches taking in the sights of the Phoenix Park.
Kumar arrived at the zoo in late March and after a period of quarantine, has been introduced to the Asiatic lions den – which is mirrored after the Gir National Forest and Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujaret, India.
It was established in the early 1900s as a protected area for Asiatic lions whose numbers had been decimated to just 15 in the world due to trophy hunting.
Today there are still only about 350 Asiatic lions left in the wild – with the majority living within the sanctuary.
If Kumar mates successfully, it will take between 105 to 110 days' gestation for a litter to be born, which typically number between three and eight cubs.
A new litter would not only be a welcome addition to the breeding programme, it would also be a boost to staff who are still mourning the loss of Shelia, the last African lion at the zoo who died of old age last August.