Kathryn Sanders, Team Leader at ZSL London Zoo
ZSL London Zoo’s female lionesses are about to embark on an exciting adventure, as they leave the zoo in which they were born to form a new pride at Schwerin Zoo in Germany, where a brand new home for Asiatic lions has been built.
The move, scheduled for 15 December, will mark a big change for not only the lionesses, but the team who’ve worked with these individuals for a long time. We’re really going to miss them, but we know it’s a great step for their future, and the future of the species.
International collaboration for conservation
The move is part of the international conservation breeding programme for the Endangered Asiatic lions, and the sisters’ departure paves the way for a new female to be introduced to our male, Bhanu.
Asiatic lions – of which there are thought to be just 600 remaining in the wild - can be found in one small area of India, the Gir National Park in Sasan Gir, Gujarat. Incredible conservation efforts are made in the region to protect the species, but their future isn’t guaranteed, their limited range means they are extremely vulnerable to disease outbreaks, habitat loss or extreme weather events.
Well-managed conservation breeding programmes in zoos play a vital role in helping to secure a future for species such as these – they help us to ensure that those species that are threatened with extinction in the wild have a demographically and genetically healthy back up population and it is absolutely hoped that Asiatic lion cubs will be born at London Zoo again in the future.
Rubi, Heidi and Indi…and Bhanu!
The three big cats, Rubi (age 11) and her younger twin sisters, Heidi and Indi (aged 9) were all born at ZSL London Zoo.
The feisty trio have been loved by keepers and visitors alike for their big personalities and individual quirks.
Older sister Rubi likes to keep herself to herself, and often leaves her younger siblings to bask in the spotlight. Indi is the pride’s keenest cat; she loves her training sessions and can be counted on to investigate new enrichment or installations in their enclosure before her sisters. Heidi is happy sharing the limelight and lets Indi suss everything out first before checking it out herself, but she definitely doesn’t share food – even pride-leader Bhanu gets told off if he so much as sniffs her dinner!
Although spending most of their life in Regent’s Park, the girls enjoyed a short country break to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in 2015 while their new Land of the Lions home was under construction. They soon made their mark on the Zoo’s Indian-inspired flagship exhibit upon their return and it was in their new home that they were introduced to their handsome new roommate, Bhanu.
Bhanu – who’d never lived with females before moving to London Zoo – had to quickly learn how to take charge of three girls who very much ruled the roost, and not only assert his own dominance, but help stop their sisterly-squabbles; as in a way that only siblings can, as much as they adore one another they also know just how to press each other’s buttons!
From starring in the Zoo’s latest fly-on-the-wall documentary on ITV to being photographed with HM The Queen at the Royal unveiling of Land of the Lions, the lionesses will leave a lasting legacy at ZSL London Zoo. They’ve certainly been involved in some of the biggest events at the Zoo in the last decade and will be leaving us with lots of fond memories.
We’ll all be saying our goodbyes to the girls over the next fortnight, and we hope that when we re-open you’ll be able to pay us a visit to do the same. We’ll make sure to keep you posted on the move and share updates about our new arrival with you as soon as we can – sometimes they need a bit of time to settle in but watch this space!
If you’ve taken any pictures of the girls at London Zoo, please do share them with us, either on your own social media channels and tag us @zsllondonzoo or post them to our Facebook page – we’d love to see them and hear about your favourite memories of our iconic trio.
The Asiatic lions at ZSL London Zoo are sponsored by Liontrust - the specialist fund management company. Their support is helping ZSL to bring Asiatic lions back from the brink of extinction.
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