ZSL London Zoo’s newest four-legged resident has been causing a stir on the streets of London – a replica Asiatic lion with an important role to play at Land of the Lions, the Zoo's new Indian-inspired big cat exhibit.
On his journey to his new home at the Zoo the model passed through London's iconic Trafalgar Square - where startled commuters did a double take at the fake feline.
The incredibly detailed model was created by specialist designers and will be part of the £5.2m exhibit's roar-some roster of immersive experiences. The replica breathes, has a heartbeat and even realistic-looking wounds for budding vets to learn how to treat.
As part of the new exhibit, which is now open, actors playing the role of a forest rescue team will be calling on kids to help treat the imitation injured lion. They will be encouraged to get involved in the rescue by holding drips, checking his heart-rate and cleaning its injuries.
The result of two months' work, the model was moulded out of clay and cast in layers of latex, before having synthetic fur delicately stitched by hand onto his limbs. His realistic eyes are actually made of glass, his claws are plastic and his whiskers fashioned from blades of dried grass.
ZSL London Zoo's live interpretation team leader Ruth Thomas said: "Our replica lion is so realistic, visitors joining in the action will get an incredible sense of what it’s like for the teams working in India to rescue injured animals. It’s an integral part of the Land of the Lions story, showing exactly the kind of vital work that is currently being undertaken on the ground in the Gir Forest as part of ZSL’s conservation project to protect these beautiful big cats in the wild."
Life-like animal models are routinely used by vets as an integral part of their training. By demonstrating how real-life rangers support the approximately 500 remaining wild lions that call the Gir National Park home, the Zoo is keen for visitors to experience conservation in action and learn more about their partnership with the Gujarat Forest Department and Wildlife Institute of India.
ZSL London Zoo's biggest and most breath-taking exhibit to date, Land of the Lions. Visitors will be transported from the heart of London to the vibrant setting of Sasan Gir in India, where they can spot lions snoozing on village train tracks, indulge in authentic Indian street food and come within a whisker of the big cats at the 360° Temple Clearing.