Iconic chalk lion restored at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo has finished restoration work on the Whipsnade White Lion, a famous chalk image that has overlooked the Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire since 1933. 

Following the donation of more than 800 tonnes – or 50 lorry loads – of chalk, the Zoo was able to start resurfacing the iconic landmark in September 2017. Winter weather and a steep incline made the restoration work challenging, but the final load of chalk was carefully smoothed out over the lion’s mane on Tuesday 20 March 2018.

General Manager of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Owen Craft said: “We are delighted to have restored this iconic landmark to its original glory. ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is incredibly proud of the Whipsnade White Lion, which has stood proudly overlooking the Dunstable Downs since 1933.

“As a site of Special Scientific Interest, the Whipsnade White Lion and the area around it are cared for by the Zoo all year round, using environmentally-friendly products to protect the native plants and animals. This new coating of chalk has made a huge difference to the eye-catching brilliance of the landmark and I can’t wait for all our Easter visitors, as well as our wonderful, local communities, to see it looking so great, as they drive towards the Zoo.”

The Whipsnade White Lion was designed by R.B. Brook-Greaves, and work began to create it in November 1931. By the following April, the rough outline of the 147 metre-long lion was visible on the side of the Dunstable Downs. Ivinghoe Beacon was often used as a vantage point to check the accuracy of the outline. Almost two acres of land had to be cleared to reveal the chalk, and the lion was finally finished in the spring of 1933. During the Second World War, the lion was covered to prevent it from being used by enemy aircraft as a navigation point. In May 1981, as part of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the lion was illuminated using 750 lightbulbs.

Owen Craft continued: "This Easter, our family activities at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo centre around celebrating animal superpowers, and what could be a greater symbol of that than a 147 metre-long super-lion!"

Superpowers at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo runs every day from Friday 30 March to Sunday 15 April 2018. To come face-to-face with ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s real lions, book tickets for an action-packed day out at the UK’s largest Zoo. 

Book tickets to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

More news from ZSL

Whipsnade Zoo's Asian elephant herd explore festive Christmas trees

Keepers at Whipsnade Zoo create winter wonderland for Asian elephant herd

Wilfred the giraffe calf at Whipsnade Zoo

Newborn giraffe calf born on Remembrance Day named after WW1 poet Wilfred Owen

A ring-tailed lemur at Whipsnade Zoo investigates pumpkins filled with sweetcorn

Lions and lemurs treated to early Halloween fun at UK’s largest zoo