The Assiniboine Park Zoo says this weekend is the last chance to see a pair of Asiatic lions. They are heading to zoological facilities in Great Britain on the recommendation of the European Endangered Species Program.
The pair of twin brothers, Bhanu and Kamal, have called Winnipeg home since 2012, when they arrived from the Zoologischer Garten Magdeburg in Germany.
A crowd favourite, thousands have seen them over the last four years at the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Pavilion of the Lions exhibit.
"We know that the lions are a visitor favourite and while we’re sad to see them go, this is an important part of species survival and helping save endangered species," said Gary Lunsford, Head, Zoological Operations at Assiniboine Park Zoo.
Right now, the zoo has no new lions to replace the old ones at the exhibit.
"We’re currently working on potential options for the exhibit space and we’ll be sure to keep the public informed of what new and exciting changes will be coming in the near future," Lunsford said in a statement.
Bhanu will move to the London Zoo next Wednesday and Kamal will be transferred to the Chessington Zoo in mid-March. Both facilities are currently home to female Asiatic lions and hope to successfully breed the pairs in the future.
Once a flourishing species, it’s currently estimated only 200 to 260 Asiatic lions exist in the wild, living in India’s Gir Forests where they are heavily protected. An additional 200 Asian lions live in zoos worldwide. A subspecies of the African lion, the mane of the Asian lion is generally shorter than that of the African lion, so the ears are always visible. Asian lions are, in general, also slightly smaller than African lions.