On Thursday (8 April) we waved a fond fur-well to our trio of lionesses, as they set off on their journey to Schwerin Zoo in Germany.
Rubi, Heidi and Indi – all sisters who were born here at London Zoo, were originally due to move last year but a combination of COVID and Brexit meant that our plan A wasn’t meant to be.
Delays and queues at UK ports in December, caused by the pandemic and the then-looming Brexit deadline, meant we had to make the decision to pause on their move – we simply wouldn’t send the lionesses on their way without the guarantee that their journey would be a smooth one. However, this meant that we missed the Brexit cut-off on 31 December, and had to effectively restart the process to move the lionesses.
Our animal moves coordinator has been working non-stop on this, as it’s not as simple as booking a ticket online when you’re sending three big cats on a 550-mile journey. Luckily their baggage was one thing we didn’t have to worry about, thanks to ZSL’s partners Liontrust who have supported this entire move. Liontrust ensured we were able to have custom-built crates made for the girls’ travels, and their ongoing support for our Asiatic lions is invaluable.
The crates have been in the lionesses’ bedrooms for months now, where they’ve been using them as extra cosy spots for snoozing - this means that yesterday we were able to call the girls in from the outside paddock one by one, and they walked straight into their own travel crate. Lined with sawdust for comfort, the crates are fitted with custom-designed feeding portals so that they can enjoy water and a snack on the road. Once they were all inside, we simply moved their crates into the van and they were on their way.
The feisty felines are moving as part of the European breeding programme – their departure paves the way for us to introduce a new female to our male Bhanu in the near future. These moves help ensure that we preserve the genetic diversity of the animals in the breeding programme, and protect a healthy, back-up population of these Endangered animals for the future.
It’s impossible for zookeepers to not feel sad when animals you work with every day move on to another zoo – and it’s no different with Rubi, Heidi and Indi. Lots of us have known them since they were cubs; we’ve watched them grow into beautiful adults and got to know their individual quirks and personalities. They will be missed a lot, but we’re equally excited to have a new female join our pride and to see what the future holds for our Land of the Lions family.
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