The Royals toured the ZSL London Zoo’s new Land of the Lions, which opened March 17, 2016, and spent time talking to staff about the incredible interactive experiences the exhibit will have on offer to visitors.
Picture at top: HM The Queen and HRH The Duke at the opening. Photo: ZSL London Zoo
Lionesses Indi, Rubi and Heidi even showed their respect for the Royal guests – coming to within a whisker of Her Majesty and His Royal Highness in the exhibit’s stunning 360⁰ Temple Clearing.
Director General Ralph Armond said: “We were delighted to welcome Her Majesty and His Royal Highness to ZSL London Zoo this morning to open our new Land of the Lions exhibit. Her Majesty actually opened our previous lion enclosure 40 years ago and it was an honour to have her return with HRH The Duke in the year of her 90th birthday.”
Land of the Lions, a £5.2m development, has been created to transport visitors from the heart of London to the vibrant setting of Sasan Gir in Gujarat, India – the last remaining stronghold of Asiatic lions – and bring visitors closer than ever to the big cats.
Covering an expanse of 2,500sqm (27,000sqft), visitors will enter Land of the Lions through a grand stone archway, pick up a ‘park pass’ at the Gir Tourist Information centre and explore Sasan Gir Train Station – where the odd lion might be spotted snoozing on the tracks – before being awed by the exhibit’s incredible centrepiece, a 360° Temple Clearing where the big cats will roam just metres away, separated only by fine wires.
To truly capture the essence of the lions’ forest home, the Zoo’s designers visited Gujarat in India for inspiration, and rickshaws, bicycles, sacks of spices, rangers’ huts, and even a life-size truck – much of which was sourced and shipped from India – are dotted both inside and out of the lions’ domain.
The external team on this project included Ray Hole Architect and Paragon Creative.