Perth Zoo helping lions breed

Alex Asbury

Alex Asbury

Oliver Pomeroy

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Perth Zoo has expanded its lion exhibit to aid conservation efforts after both male lions died last year.

The exhibit will allow the zoo to start a breeding program, in order to keep some alive in captivity. The new enclosure can hold up to eight lions, and has specific facilities to accommodate the reproductive process.

This breeding program will help to ensure the species safety as numbers are  dwindling. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, at current rates the African Lion will be extinct by 2050.

In 2014, the then director of the US service, Daniel Ashe, said: “The lion is one of the planet’s most beloved species and an irreplaceable part of our shared global heritage. If we want to ensure that healthy lion populations continue to roam the African savannahs and forests of India, it’s up to all of us – not just the people of Africa and India – to take action.”

The lion population is being threatened primarily from humans, who hunt and kill the animal for sport. There are a number of legal breeding camps in Africa that are dedicated to producing lions to be hunted by wealthy tourists.

ECU Daily spoke to Danielle Henry, spokesperson for Perth Zoo about the exhibit and the threat of extinction in the lion population.

She said: “There are approximately 20,000 lions left in the wild. Devastatingly, they’re extinct in 26 African countries, so zoos, like our local zoo have a major role in providing a safety-net against extinction for lions.”

Ms Henry explained that the current female, Shinyanga, was too old for reproduction, and they would have to bring in both males and females.

“Plans to bring in new lions and play a vital role in the regional breeding program have been underway for more than four years. We are currently working with the regional species coordinator (basically like a lion matchmaker) to identify the best lions to form a new pride.”

While the new exhibit will benefit the lion population by spreading awareness of their plight and breeding more lions, some groups, such as PETA, speak out against zoos, claiming they are denying the animals “everything that makes their life meaningful”.

According to Google trends, searches for Perth Zoo are increasing, with the Orangutan incident in May providing the third highest peak of the past year.

It may also be coming at a good time for the zoo, as the value of the business dropped significantly between 2016 and 2017 according to the Perth Zoo annual report.

The value of all Perth Zoo’s assets dropped by $376,281 over the financial year.

Ms Henry said: “We do hope that more people will be enticed to the Zoo to learn more about African Lions, but the primary purpose for this upgrade is to allow Perth Zoo to be able to partake once more in the regional breeding program for the species to safeguard against extinction.”

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Perth Zoo helping lions breed