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Chester Zoo reveals details of new zone to host world's rarest lions

Chester Zoo has released more details about a major new habitat set to open to visitors next week.

Lions at Chester Zoo
Lions at Chester Zoo

The new zone, which spans more than 4,780 square metres, will be home to a trio of endangered Asiatic lions, male Iblis and females Kumari and Kiburi.

The state-of-the-art new conservation breeding facility has been specially designed by expert carnivore keepers, conservationists and architects.

The area will recreate the dry forest and savannah habitats of the Gir Forest region of India, boasting a a densely planted forest, raised hilltop viewing points for the lions to survey their savannah, heated rocks, a water hole and a sandy beach area.

One of the rarest of all the big cat species, Asiatic lions have suffered a huge decline in their natural range. They once roamed across Northern Africa, Greece, Turkey and Asia but now just 650 wild Asiatic lions remain in one small region of India.

Mike Jordan, animal and plant collections director at Chester Zoo, said: “The zoo’s new Asiatic lion habitat is modelled on the Gir Forest in Gujarat, India, the only place in the world where these highly endangered lions are now found.

“This remaining wild population is incredibly fragile and coexist with the local livestock herders of the region. If disease hits or a natural disaster occurs then the species could easily become extinct.

"It’s therefore extremely important that we continue to try and further our efforts as part of the international endangered species breeding programme that is working to boost Asiatic lion numbers.

“Asiatic lions have gone somewhat under the radar of conservation. But, with just 650 surviving in the wild, we must raise some much needed awareness of this beautiful, iconic species and inspire people to help us to prevent their extinction.”

Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at Chester Zoo, added: “Readying a group of lions to move home can be challenging and, over several months, our expert carnivore keepers have been encouraging the lions into specially designed moving crates using their favourite food. Slowly, day by day, the lions have become more and more comfortable spending time inside the crates.

“When the finishing touches have been made to their spectacular new habitat our trio Iblis, Kumari and Kiburi will make the short journey across the zoo ready to explore their new home."

For more information about the attraction and to buy tickets, click here.

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