Zookeepers are celebrating the arrival of a new Asiatic lioness at London Zoo – whose father will have been visited by generations at the zoo – as part of a new breeding programme for endangered species.
Four-year-old Arya, who travelled to London from Paignton Zoo on Tuesday 27 April, has spent her first few days at the Zoo settling in, before briefly venturing outside yesterday for the first time (Thursday 29 April) – where zookeepers spotted her tail waving in amongst the leaves.
She’s set to be a new mate for ZSL London Zoo’s male Bhanu as part of the programme.
Zookeeper Tara Humphreys said: “Arya is a lively young lion who is particularly fond of climbing trees, which she’ll find in abundance in her new Land of the Lions home – her favourite scent is peppermint, which she absolutely adores rolling in, so we’ve made sure to stock up on plenty of fresh bunches as a housewarming present.
“At the moment, Arya is sticking to mainly night-time explorations of her new paddock, so we’ve been giving her a bit of privacy while she settles in – but we did spot her peeking at us from behind the bushes when she crept outside today, and she’ll venture out more and more as she grows in confidence.”
To make way for Arya’s arrival, zookeepers waved a fond ‘fur well’ to London-born lionesses Heidi, Indi and Rubi, who moved to Germany’s Schwerin Zoo on Thursday 8 April.
The 550-mile journey was made possible by ZSL’s partners Liontrust, who kitted the big cats out with bespoke crates to ensure they travelled in style to their new home – each fitted with a customised feeding portal, so they could enjoy drinks and snacks during the flight.
“We’re so grateful for Liontrust’s support with the move – thanks to their generosity, we had individual custom crates installed in each of the lionesses bedrooms months ago, so the girls were well used to them ahead of the trip: they liked them so much that they ended up using them as cosy snoozing spots, which meant when it was time to move they simply walked inside and settled down for the journey.”
Big cat team leader Kate Sanders added: “Arya is also the daughter of one of London Zoo’s former lions, Lucifer, so it feels particularly fitting that she’s here, where her father spent so many happy years: many of our regular visitors will have fond memories of Lucifer and we’re sure they’ll be excited to visit his daughter over the coming months.”
Simon Hildrey, CMO at Liontrust said: “When we first partnered with ZSL more than eight years ago, Lucifer was the male lion at ZSL London Zoo so it is wonderful to continue the ‘tail’ through Arya’s arrival.”
She added: “We are proud to have been able to support the safe journeys of all the lionesses and through this the conservation work of ZSL. Wildlife conservation is one of three objectives of Liontrust’s community engagement programme and protecting biodiversity is becoming an increasingly important consideration for sustainable investors.”
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In time, Arya will be introduced to handsome male, Bhanu, to form the Zoo’s new pride – with keepers hopeful that cubs will follow. “We have all our fingers crossed that Arya and Bhanu will be the pawfect match,” explained Kate. “Hopefully love will blossom very soon.”
Both moves were meticulously planned as part of the European breeding programme for the species – to preserve genetic diversity in the programme while protecting a back-up population of Asiatic lions in zoos.
ZSL London Zoo’s Land of the Lions, opened in 2016 by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, is designed to tell the story of these majestic felines and the work being done to protect them.
Tickets are available here.
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