Image: © ZSL
The queens of the jungle are back at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo with two African lions taking up residence in their 'queendom.' Lionesses Waka and Winta have moved to the United Kingdom from Antwerp Zoo in Belgium.
Nearing their second birthday the lionesses will soon be joined by a young male, Malik in hopes they will form a pride and hopefully welcome some cubs.
Zookeeper Sarah McGregor said, “The team are excited to have welcomed such young and energetic sisters in Waka and Winta, and are preparing to complete the new pride when 18-month-old male, Malik, joins them next month from Neuwied Zoo in Germany.”
“Lions are known as the king and queens of the animal kingdom, and we’re sure Waka, Winta and Malik will fast become the king and queens of Whipsnade Zoo – not only will they help educate and inspire our visitors, but we’re excited to play such an important part in helping to conserve this important species globally.”
Waka, Winta and Malik have been brought together through the European Endangered Breeding Programme (EEP) for the African lion. This program aims to create a strong and genetically diverse back up populations of the species in conservation zoos across Europe.
Numbers of the African lion are in sharp decline in their native range where they are facing large-scale habitat conversion, human/animal conflict and unsustainable hunting of their prey species.
The team are hoping the new pride’s formation will help boost numbers of the iconic species. “It’s been 17 years since Whipsnade Zoo last had African lion cubs, so fingers crossed we won’t have too long to wait,” Sarah added.
As they await the arrival of Malik keepers are getting to know Waka and Winta including their individual personalities.
“We can already see that Waka is very confident and has led the way in investigating their new home in the Dunstable Downs, while her sister Winta is little bit more cautious and has sometimes needed an extra push from her sister to explore everything Whipsnade has to offer,” explained Sarah. “The girls have a very strong relationship and love playing in the long grass together - we can’t wait to get to know them more as time goes by.”
African lions are the only species of big cats which live in family groups known as prides. Other cat species hunt alone but this species has been able to increase hunting success by working together.
Image: © ZSL
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