A First Look Inside London Zoo's Land Of The Lions

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 28 months ago
A First Look Inside London Zoo's Land Of The Lions

An Indian village opened in the middle of London today — with four Asiatic lions as its residents.

The Queen officially cut the tape at London Zoo's new lion enclosure, Land Of The Lions, accompanied by Prince Philip.

Land Of The Lions, which cost £5.2m to build, is five times the size of the zoo's previous lion enclosure. It's designed to resemble Sasan Gir, an Indian village in the heart of the Gir Forest where the last 500 wild Asiatic lions live — allowing visitors to understand the conflicts that arise from humans and lions living in such close contact.

The Indian village part of the exhibit educates visitors on life in the Gir Forest. Photo: Londonist

Visitors to Land Of The Lions can stop off at the Gir Tourist Information Centre, and learn about the conservation projects going on in India, before visiting the town's railway station — where they might catch a peek of Bhanu.

Zoo regulars will be pleased to know that the zoo's previous lionesses, Rubi, Heidi and Indi are back after a brief stay at Whipsnade Zoo. They're joined by Bhanu, a male lion who has recently arrived from a zoo in Winnipeg, Canada.

The replica of Sasan Gir Railway Station features a bench from India and an exact replica of a painted sign at the real Sasan Gir station. Photo: Londonist

Overhead walkways let humans peer down on the lions in their paddocks, and back on ground level, the big cats are separated from visitors by just a wire fence (a tough one, we checked) letting you get really close to them.

The lions are joined —but separated from — a troop of Hanuman langur monkeys, a species which lives alongside the lions in their native habitat.

The lions' new neighbours are a troop of Hanuman langur monkeys. Photo: Londonist

Much of the decor of the exhibit, including railway station signs and benches, rickshaws and sacks of spices has been sourced from India, maintaining the authenticity of the 'village'.

Land Of The Lions is open to the public from Good Friday (25 March 2016). Admission is included in zoo admission price — booking in advance is recommended during school holidays. Visitors can also book to spend a night in lodges overlooking the lion enclosure.

The Queen and Prince Philip visit the enclosure. Photo: Londonist
The Queen and Prince Philip are presented with a photo of The Queen opening the previous lion enclosure — on almost the same spot — in 1976. Photo: Londonist
The Queen and Prince Philip meet ZSL staff after unveiling the new enclosure. Photo: Londonist
A lioness surveys her new territory. Photo: Londonist
Photo: Londonist
Photo: Londonist
Inside the Gir Forest Visitor Centre. Photo: Londonist
A mosaic wall, designed by The Hackney Mosaic Project, contains dedications to people who donated to the lion project. Photo: Londonist
Visitors can refuel at the Indian street food kiosk. Photo: Londonist
Visitors at the pedal power station can see whether they can pedal fast enough to outcycle a lion. Photo: Londonist

Last Updated 21 March 2016

James Curran

I'm not a 100% certain but I'm pretty sure I could outcycle a lion.