Lion Kibibi. Credit: Werribee Open Range Zoo

Auckland Zoo has welcomed three young female lions from Werribee Open Range Zoo in Australia as part of the international zoo breeding and advocacy programme for this increasingly threatened African big cat.

Twin sisters Aziza and Kibibi, and half-sister Ilola - all aged four years - arrived at Auckland Zoo on Tuesday evening, where they have begun their quarantine, a standard MPI and Auckland Zoo biosecurity requirement for all new animal arrivals. Once completed, the trio will have the full run of their strategically landscaped habitat in the heart of the Zoo’s Africa Safari Track, and enjoy all of the enriching sights, smells, and sounds that come with it.

Auckland Zoo’s Head of Animal Care and Conservation, Richard Gibson, says the highly complex process of planning for the lions’ move began many months ago and includes a great number of people, permits and processes, so it is a huge relief to have been able to progress this important animal transfer.

"While many things are not possible for any of us during these essential Covid lockdowns, there were fortunately no reasons for delaying the long-planned transport of these important big cats. Commercial aircraft and freight companies are still operating," he says.

We’ve worked closely with and had the full approvals and support of MPI and the equivalent Australian authorities, and together implemented strict Covid-19 protocols to achieve a very safe, smooth and successful move. 

Werribee Open Range Zoo’s Acting Life Science Manager, Ben Gulli, said the lioness trio’s relocation to Auckland Zoo will help to maintain the important zoos’ breeding programme for the species in the region.

“This international program aims to maintain healthy and genetically viable prides of lions in zoos. This is a key component of protecting the precious species and helps to support the conservation of wild lion populations by raising awareness,” says Mr Gulli.

Kibibi, Ilola and Aziza have helped to educate the Australian public about the plight of their species, inspiring action to support their wild cousins, and no doubt that will continue across the Tasman as they form a new lion pride at Auckland Zoo.

Read the full story from Auckland Zoo

Auckland Zoo welcomes lionesses from Werribee Zoo

Footage taken at Werribee Open Range Zoo