Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BBC News: 'First steps on grass' for lions

A pride of 13 lions rescued from dilapidated and cramped conditions at a Romanian zoo have taken their first steps in a new outdoor enclosure.

The lions were flown from Oradea Zoo to their new home at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Doncaster, in February.

After three months in quarantine they have been let out. For many of them it is their first time on grass.

In Romania up to five of the animals would be in three metre square concrete-floored cages.

Daiana Ghender, the director of Oradea Zoo, said she was "very, very happy" to see the lions in their new nine-acre enclosure.

"I was very emotional to see their first steps on the ground - they lived all their lives on concrete," she said.

'So excited'

Yorkshire Wildlife Park's director, Cheryl Williams, said it was "overwhelming" to see how "curious" and "amazingly relaxed" the lions were in their new home.

"They lived on hard, bare concrete with very little shelter in temperatures which ranged from minus 20C to plus 36C," she said.

"Staff did the best they could but obviously in such a poor country the facilities were poor. It just wasn't great for them.

"So to see them in space - they've got rocks to climb on - It's probably the furthest those lions have walked in their life in a straight line.

"For the first time ever they'll be able to run as fast as they can. The youngsters haven't even thought of it yet."

Ms Ghender said the lions, now known as the Pride of Yorkshire, showed signs of remembering her.

"When they heard my voice today, they were so excited. They approached me and let me scratch them and licked my hands," she said.

In summer 2009 the Yorkshire Wildlife Park launched an appeal to raise £150,000 to get the lions to the UK.

They flew over in a specially modified Boeing 737 which was usually used to transport holidaymakers.

Their enclosure has been built in three sections so the three pride families do not mix.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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