WHILE the world waits for pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang to enjoy their first romantic encounter, it seems that passions are running high elsewhere at Edinburgh Zoo.
Jayendra, two, arrived from Bristol Zoo at the end of June, and keepers say he has “hit it off” with the older animal.
The pair have even been spotted curling up together to sleep.
Jayendra has not yet reached sexual maturity, but it is hoped the pair will have cubs later on.
But, as the above pictures illustrate, Jayendra has some growing up to do before he can claim to be the dominant partner in this relationship.
Alison Maclean, head carnivore keeper at Edinburgh Zoo, said: “It’s great news that we have Jay at the zoo and he has already been introduced successfully to Kamlesh, our feisty female Asiatic lion.
“When you’re introducing any animal to another animal for the first time there is always uncertainty, especially when it’s two very powerful lions.
“Kamlesh is around 13 years older than Jay and is slightly larger in size than him too, so it was going to be interesting to see how they would react to each other.
“I’m glad to say that they seem to have hit it off, and they could even be spotted curled up sleeping together on the first night after the introductions - which is a great sign.
“Jay has been submissive to Kamlesh and she is definitely the boss in the relationship, for now anyway. We expect this will change when Jay reaches sexual maturity and takes over as the dominant one in the pair.
“We are hopeful that they will become a breeding pair and produce cubs in the not-too-distant future which would be fantastic for us at the zoo and the ongoing conservation and breeding programme for these incredibly endangered animals.
“It has been a pretty smooth and speedy introduction mainly because there wasn’t a tussle over who’s in charge. Jay is very active and can often be spotted climbing the tree branches in his enclosure, whereas she’s a little more relaxed and not as boisterous as him.”
Asiatic lions, which are one of the seven subspecies of lions, are critically endangered because of habitat loss and poaching.
They can now be found only in the Gir Forest National Park in India, and there are thought to be just 175 left in the wild.
Smaller than their African relatives, Asiatic lions usually weigh about 190kg (29 stone) whereas African lions weigh in at around a hefty 230kg (36 stone).
Asiatic male lions also have a shorter and lighter-coloured mane meaning that their ears are always visible, unlike that of the African lion.