A piece in gossip newsletter Popbitch made the claim on Friday – leading to intense speculation over whether the zoo’s Asiatic Lions were 100 percent secure. It said: “Though it isn’t something they generally care to publicise, there’s a story that circulates among staff at London Zoo about the lions there.
“Apparently, not only are they incredibly clever, but the number of times the lions have managed to escape from their enclosure and wander about the premises for a decent amount of time is – as we heard it – ‘not zero’.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk this morning, media manager Rebecca Blanchard said the report was “completely untrue” and “ridiculous”.
In a later statement the zoo said: “The piece in Popbitch is categorically untrue.”
The zoo’s Asiatic lions live in an 8,200sqft exhibit called the “Land of the Lions”.
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It was officially opened by the Queen in March 2016 and is advertised as a “breath-taking exhibit (that) transports visitors from the heart of London to India’s vibrant Sasan Gir, where they can get closer than ever before to mighty Asiatic lions”.
The zoo’s website adds: “For the first time, big cat lovers can embark on an interactive Indian adventure as they help ZSL’s forest rangers deal with a ‘lion-emergency’ in the Gir Forest, and lend a hand to the veterinary team who come to the rescue.
“Land of the Lions will inform, inspire and excite wildlife lovers of all ages and promises to be an experience unlike any other.”The zoo – officially called the Zoological Society of London – had long worked to “champion” Asiatic Lions.
The big cats are currently endangered and according to a 2020 survey there are only 674 remaining in the wild.
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On its website, the zoo said: “We are proud to have supported ZSL’s Asiatic lion campaign for over eight years, which is dedicated to protecting the last remaining lions that reside as a single population in Western India’s Gir National Forest.
“With Liontrust’s support, ZSL is actively working with local partners in a variety of ways to ensure the survival of this population of just over 600 Asiatic lions.”
As well as providing an attraction to the public, the enclosure is designed to “ensure a safety net against extinction as well as protecting the genetic viability of species”.
The zoo’s male is called Bhanu and is part of its breeding programme.
He was born Zoo Madgeburg in Germany in May 2010 and moved to Assiniboine Park Zoo in Canada with his brother Kamal around the age of two.
He transferred to London Zoo home in March 2016.
The 12-year-old male’s name is Hindi for ‘the sun’.