Roar-some! Endangered Asiatic lions make three-hour trip across the country to a new home in Kent after Bristol Zoo closure
Two endangered Asiatic lions have found a new home after their zoo shut down permanently, leading them to move to the other side of the country.
Sahee and Sonika have been welcomed into a new family at the The Big Cat Sanctuary in Ashford, Kent.
The adorable pair, both seven-years-old, are the first Asiatic lions to ever live at The Big Cat Sanctuary, one of just a few collections to house both African and Asiatic lions.
They arrived in Kent on 3 March from Bristol Zoo, which shut its doors to the public in September last year after 186 years.
Sahee and Sonika, both seven-years-old, had lived at Bristol Zoo since 2019.
The powerful creatures received crate training to prepare them for the move, which saw them driven from one side of the country to the other, on a trip that took three-and-a-half hours.
Sahee (pictured) and Sonika have been welcomed into a new family at the The Big Cat Sanctuary in Ashford, Kent
The Asiatic lion is part of a population that survives only in the wild in India. Since the turn of the 20th century, its range is known to be restricted to Gir National Park and the surrounding areas in the Indian state of Gujarat.
But this population has grown in recent years and is now heavily protected.
Historically their numbers are thought to have dwindled to as low as just a few dozen in the 1880s. Asiatic lions are listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List, with only an estimation of 600 remaining in the wild.
Sonika and Sahee’s arrival is part of the ‘Project Lion’ initiative, which involves the renovation of the Sanctuary’s lion habitats and supports conservation efforts of both African and Asiatic lions in the wild.
Briony Smith, curator of The Big Cat Sanctuary said: ‘We are thrilled to welcome Sahee and Sonika to our Sanctuary.
Sahee and Sonika (pictured), both seven years old, had lived at Bristol Zoo since 2019 until its closure in September last year
Briony Smith, curator of The Big Cat Sanctuary said: ‘Sahee is already exploring his new surroundings’
The powerful creatures received crate training to prepare them for the move, which saw them drive from one side of the country to the other, where they embarked on a three-and-a-half-hour trip
‘Sahee is already exploring his new surroundings and Sonika is becoming more confident each day.
‘Our team is dedicated to providing them with the highest standard of care and we look forward to watching them thrive in their new home.’
Al Toyne, team lead of mammals at Bristol Zoological Society, who closed Bristol Zoo, said: ‘Asiatic lions are not a species that we currently work with in the wild, so a new home was carefully selected for Sahee and Sonika to ensure the highest levels of care could continue for them both.
‘They will be missed and I’m sure many people who used to visit them at Bristol Zoo Gardens will be keen to visit them at their new home, which will be complete with quiet off-show dens, heated rocks to rest upon and more grassy areas to prowl.’