Retired circus lions released in new N.Z. zoo habitat

News Release
For Immediate Release
19 June 2007

Franklin Zoo has introduced its three ex-circus lions Eddie, Gypsy and Queenie into a new open air habitat. After living in the circus for 17 years, the zoo has provided a home for the lions, now 18, to retire.

Zoo director Helen Schofield says it’s gratifying to see the lions in their large new habitat.

“After walking the perimeter of the area, the lions began rolling in the grass and within half an hour were playing together,” she says.

“We were surprised to see how the lions took it all in their stride. Introducing them into the habitat has been a long time coming and we were excited to see them happy and inquisitive. They displayed good natural lion behaviours, hiding in the long grass and stalking each other.”

The zoo plans to integrate Eddie, Gypsy and Queenie with the zoo’s other lions, Jade and Ruby so they can all live together in the new habitat. Jade and Ruby have lived at the zoo for 14 years.

Eddie, Gypsy and Queenie have been living next to Jade and Ruby for the past year to ensure they are familiar with each other before living together. They will take turns spending time in the habitat before being introduced to each other.

Gypsy is 80% blind and relies on her sister Queenie for guidance in new situations. She needs to be familiar with the habitat before they are all introduced.

Schofield says she thinks the integration will go very well and is “more and more confident about integration after seeing them in the enclosure.”

She says they are exploring and “enjoying looking out over the Franklin countryside from the top of their hut.”

Franklin Zoo is home to more than 100 wild animals and birds, including a multitude of primates, a serval, and a zebra. It is situated in the Bombay Hills, 5km from the turnoff along Ridge Road.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK0706/S00169.htm

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