Edinburgh Zoo to let visitors feed lions

Zoo-goers have a chance to feed Jayendra. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Zoo-goers have a chance to feed Jayendra. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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IT promises to be the mane attraction everyone will want to get their teeth in to. Bosses at Edinburgh Zoo are beaming with pride after unveiling their latest gift experience – the chance to feed two hungry lions.

It is hoped the Carnivore Magic Moment package will be a roaring success with its unique, and extremely intimate, view of the snarling predators.

Launched this week, we can exclusively reveal brave visitors will be given the opportunity to feed Asian lions Jayendra and Kamlesh and get inside information about their life at the zoo. Visitors will feed the pair in turn by placing pieces of meat on to a feeding pole – before carefully poking it through the safety of a double-mesh fence.

Each 30-minute experience is limited to only two people, with the experience described as one “not to be forgotten”.

And while the zoo would not be drawn on whether a risk assessment was carried out before the activity was approved, it is thought full safety briefings will be provided to people willing to pay the £70 fee per person to take part.

During the tour, a keeper will talk about the history of the two lions, the importance of conservation and the role they play within a conservation programme.

They will also discuss the difference between Asian and African lions, why the zoo has Asian lions and answer any questions.

The Carnivore Magic Moment experience is the latest in a series of activities offered by the zoo in which members of the public can get up close and personal with its animals.

Other packages include the chance to feed rhinos, penguins and lemurs.

Keeper experience presenter Erika Oulton said: “The Carnivore Magic Moment is an unforgettable experience. You get to learn so much about these extremely powerful and highly endangered animals.

“During the feeding you get to see the lions’ unique personalities and truly understand their size and strength.”

The zoo has two Asian lions in its collection.

Described as “a bit set in her ways”, lioness Kamlesh, 16, arrived in 2003 from Chessington World of Adventures and moved into a specially-designed four-acre enclosure that was opened in 1999.

She was joined by Jayendra, a young male from Bristol Zoo, in 2011. It is hoped two-year-old Jayendra will become a mate for Kamlesh when he has fully matured.

The pair eat between 20kg and 25kg of meat each at feedings. To replicate their feeding patterns in the wild, the zoo-based beasts are fed every three days. As such, the carnivore experience is available on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. There are only about 175 mature Asian lions left in the wild.

Our roaring success

African lioness Jody was saved from certain death after a campaign by the Evening News.

Jody, who lived at Edinburgh Zoo for six years, was to be put down in 1999 when its then chief executive insisted she might have contracted FSE – the feline form of BSE – after her partner, Lumpy, had died from the disease.

She was saved following a campaign backed by 3500 readers.

There was more fury when it was decided Jody was to be sent to a Siberian zoo to make way for Asiatic lions, but she ended up spending the rest of her life in Edinburgh.