London Zoo’s ‘loved-up’ lions given cinnamon-scented Valentine’s treat

The pair were given two giant red hearts made from a recycled firehose and scented with their favourite spice.

14 February 2022

A pair of “loved-up” lions have received a special treat as part of London Zoo’s Valentine’s Day celebrations.

The Asiatic lions were given two giant red hearts, donated by the charity Liontrust, made from a recycled fire hose and scented with their favourite spice, cinnamon.

The more inquisitive of the two, lioness Arya, was first to spot the gifts and rushed to investigate, while her mate, Bhanu, was more cautious.

The pair were first introduced last year as part of an international breeding programme for the endangered species, co-ordinated by specialists from the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (Eaza), after a complex move to move Arya from Paignton Zoo in Devon to London Zoo.

Asiatic lions, originating from the Gir Forest in India, are slightly smaller than African lions and, despite the endangered population being recovered from the brink of extinction, only several hundred remain in the wild.

Lioness Arya, with her mate, Bhanu.
Lioness Arya, the more inquisitive of the pair, rushed to investigat the gifts, while her mate, Bhanu, was more cautious (ZSL London Zoo/PA)

Kathryn Sanders, head big cat keeper at ZSL London Zoo, said: “Arya and Bhanu were absolutely thrilled with their Valentine’s treats from Liontrust.

“The firehose hearts are great enrichment for the big cats, stimulating their natural curiosity, and they loved the scented surprise decorating their Indian-inspired home.

“Liontrust helped us to bring these two lions together last year, and, following careful introductions where we’ve been monitoring all of their interactions, we’re delighted that the two have formed a very close bond – so we have our fingers crossed for the future.”

Meanwhile, at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, giraffes Bashu, 11, and seven-year-old Luna were given their favourite meal of willow and cotoneaster branches, woven together to form a romantic heart garland.

Giraffes were given their favourite meal of willow and cotoneaster branches, woven together to form a romantic heart garland.
Whipsnade Zoo’s giraffes were given their favourite meal of willow and cotoneaster branches, woven together to form a romantic heart garland (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo/PA)

A pair of Visayan warty pigs called Manny and Pixie, sometimes known as “punk pigs” because of their spiky manes, also got a heart-shaped surprise when they were given a Valentine’s platter of their favourite treats – carrots, sweet potatoes and apples.

Keeper Donovan Glyn said: “Valentine’s Day is for everyone, and, while it’s vital for us to bring together our elegant, endangered giraffes for the conservation of their species, we care just as much about our lesser-known and critically endangered Visayan warty pigs.

“Hopefully our ‘romantic dinners’ will encourage our animals to get to know each other better, and, if we are lucky, we will hear the pitter-patter of tiny hooves in the not-so-distant future.”

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