This adorable set of pictures shows a pride of lions cuddling up for a family photo at a wildlife park in South Africa.

In one of the cute images the largest male lion is lying with his eyes closed while a female and another male rub their faces against him and a younger animal climbs on top.

Meanwhile in another picture the animals strike a more menacing pose with the leading male baring his teeth while the female gazes watchfully ahead.

Jihad Adnan, the Lebanese photographer who took the pictures, said he was expecting the big cats to fight but was delighted by the heartwarming display he saw.

The 37-year-old, who has been a nature photographer since 1999, snapped the images at a lion park in Johannesburg, saying: 'I saw the lions getting close to each other so I thought they would fight.

'But suddenly, after the lioness came with her cub, they started licking each other. I felt the love between them - the lion in the middle is the one saving this family.'

The lion lives in groups of related individuals with their offspring. Such a group is called a "pride". Groups of male lions are called "coalitions". Females form the stable social unit in a pride and do not tolerate outside females. Membership only changes with the births and deaths of lionesses, although some females leave and become nomadic.

The average pride consists of around 15 lions, including several adult females and up to four males and their cubs of both sexes. Large prides, consisting of up to 30 individuals, have been observed. The sole exception to this pattern is the Tsavo lion pride that always has just one adult male. Male cubs are excluded from their maternal pride when they reach maturity at around two or three years of age.

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