African lions Waka and Winta's arrival marks beginning of new pride at the UK’s largest Zoo.
Whipsnade Zoo has welcomed two young lionesses, Waka and Winta, who moved from Antwerp Zoo earlier this month to their new ‘queendom’ at the conservation zoo.
The arrival of the 23-month-old African lionesses marks a whole new era for the conservation zoo, as they’ll soon be joined by young male Malik to form a new pride for the first time in decades.
Zookeeper Sarah McGregor said: “The team are excited to have welcomed such young and energetic sisters in Waka and Winta and are preparing to complete the new pride when 18-month-old male, Malik, joins them next month from Neuwied Zoo in Germany.”
“Lions are known as the king and queens of the animal kingdom, and we’re sure Waka, Winta and Malik will fast become the king and queens of Whipsnade Zoo – not only will they help educate and inspire our visitors, but we’re excited to play such an important part in helping to conserve this important species globally.”
Waka, Winta and Malik are part of the European Endangered Breeding Programme (EEP) for the Vulnerable African lion, which ensures there are strong and genetically diverse back up populations of the species in conservation zoos across Europe.
Three quarters of African lion populations are sadly declining in the wild, driven by large-scale habitat conversion, the loss of prey through unsustainable hunting, as well as human/wildlife conflict.
ZSL, the international conservation charity behind Whipsnade Zoo, is working across Africa to save animals on the brink of extinction - as well as those threatened species that could be next.
The team are hoping the new pride’s formation will help boost numbers of the iconic species. “It’s been 17 years since Whipsnade Zoo last had African lion cubs, so fingers crossed we won’t have too long to wait,” Sarah added.
Over the next few weeks, zookeepers will get to know Waka and Winta - and their likes and dislikes - while preparing for Malik’s arrival.
“We can already see that Waka is very confident and has led the way in investigating their new home in the Dunstable Downs, while her sister Winta is little bit more cautious and has sometimes needed an extra push from her sister to explore everything Whipsnade has to offer,” explained Sarah. “The girls have a very strong relationship and love playing in the long grass together - we can’t wait to get to know them more as time goes by.”
Visitors can see Waka and Winta as they explore their new home at Whipsnade Zoo this May half-term, alongside 10,000 other animals, many of which are threatened in the wild and part of important global breeding programmes.