Construction of the exciting new African Lion Pridelands exhibit at Taronga Western Plains Zoo is progressing well, with the project now past the halfway mark.
The $9 million exhibit is set to be a major drawcard for the Zoo, featuring a large 3.5-hectare open expanse where the lion pride will roam, offering a unique visitor experience that will be unrivalled in Australia with a pride of 10-15 Lions, replicating natural family groupings in the wild.
It is the largest investment in an animal exhibit in the Zoo’s history, and represents the first major change to the Zoo circuit since its opening in 1977.
“Construction has been progressing very well, and we’re pleased to advise that the project is on track to be completed by the end of the year,” Taronga Western Plains Zoo Interim Director Nick Boyle said.
“Extensive earthworks to shape the exhibit are now complete, including kopjes (rock piles) and elevated viewing areas for both people and lions.”
The African-inspired exhibit will also feature a thrilling safari experience for visitors through an encounter from the safety of a purpose-built vehicle.
The visitor area is being built to replicate an African Masai village setting, giving visitors a real insight into, and sensory experience of, being in Africa and the plight of lions in the wild. According to the IUCN, Lion populations have experienced a 43% population decline in the past 21 years, with their range becoming increasingly fragmented. There are approximately 20,000 lions remaining in the wild. Lions play an important ecological role as apex predators and Lion Pridelands will highlight the importance of coexistence with nature.
“The next phase of our project is focused on installation of a containment wall within the lake, which will commence later this month for completion by early August. Extensive fencing of the behind-the-scenes night yards and the exhibit perimeter is also underway,” Mr Boyle said.
Following completion of the project at the end of the year, lions will be fully introduced to the new exhibit, as will goats to the goat kraals. It is anticipated that visitors can come and experience the exhibit once the animals are comfortable and settled in to their new surroundings.
“The team is very proud of the work that has gone into this exciting exhibit, and we are looking forward to further enriching the Zoo’s visitor experience with a unique and memorable encounter,” Mr Boyle said.
The exhibit will also include a dedicated section where visitors can watch Zoo Keepers working closely with and caring for the lions.
The project is part of the Taronga Centenary Visitor Experience Program, co-funded by Taronga and the NSW Government. This program has been developed to transform visitor experiences and create vital animal habitats at both Taronga Western Plains and Taronga Zoos over the next 10 years.