Lions have been on display at the Royal Burgers’ Zoo for some time now and over the years, more than 1.000 cubs have come into the world here. Even the famous roaring lion from MGM Studios has Arnhem blood coursing through his veins.
In 2008, Burgers’ Zoo had seven adult lionesses in its collection. In order to prevent an excess of young lions, which would be difficult to relocate to other zoos, four of these females were spayed. As time went on, these four spayed females were coincidentally the only females left at the zoo in 2014, in addition to two brothers who were born in Arnhem in 2011. Since cubs are not only enjoyable for the public, but also play an important role in the social structure of lions, interest arose in creating a breeding group.
New blood from Denmark
Relocating spayed lionesses is a challenge, but luckily, the zoo in Dvur Kralove, Czech Republic expressed interest. At the beginning of 2015, our females were moved to a new location at the Czech zoo, where they were paired with three castrated males. Four new females then arrived in Arnhem from the Givskud Zoo in Denmark. Two of them were related to our two males from 2011 and were therefore given birth control.
When the Danish females had spent some time adapting behind the scenes and been able to explore their large new home a few times, it was time to introduce them to their two brothers. The behaviour between the males and females seemed good and the gentlemen had a clear interest in the ladies. This appeared to be a good omen. However, lions are strong animals, so this kind of introduction is always tense and presents certain risks. This turned out to be true in this case as well. After the lions had spent a few days together, one of the females was attacked by both males during the night and was so severely wounded that she did not survive.
Separating the men
Since the women had lived with each other for a long time in Givskud, it was expected that they would form a tight group and would support each other when facing the males. Unfortunately, the cooperation we had hoped for never came about. The reason the female had been attacked was most likely because she had behaved the least submissively towards the males. After the incident, we separated the males from the females again. A month later, the animals were re-introduced, but this time, with only one of the males. This has gone well up to this point and it seems that the relationships within the group have been established. Since then, the second male has found a home at another zoo.