The pride of Auckland 

Lions live in a pride (group), and just like your family, everyone has their role to play. Male lions defend the pride’s territory. Their mane protects their neck from attack and helps them to look bigger. However, having a mane is like wearing a scarf all summer. It can get pretty hot! So it’s the females that will hunt in search of the pride’s next meal.

Females tend to hunt together, working as a team to flush out and ambush prey. These apex predators truly mean business, with powerful chest muscles that allow them to hold down an animal up to three times their size! Their powerful hind limbs enable them to leap up to 10 metres in a single jump and they can get up to 60km/h at top speed. Once a prey animal is caught, the males will have first pick of the takings - hence the saying ‘a lion's share.’  

The lion sleeps tonight… 

Resting up to 20 hours a day, lions are most active in the evenings. This is because in their wild home of Africa, sometimes it’s just too hot to do much during the day! With excellent hearing and night vision, lions are well equipped to hunt at night. Look closely (but not to close!) just under a lion’s eyes and you’ll notice a white patch of fur. This helps to reflect any available light straight into their eyes to help them to see better. Their large pupils also help to reflect the moonlight. Because of this, it is thought that a lion’s eyesight is about eight times better than that of humans!  

At the Zoo

Sisterly love 

Our three lions, twin sisters Aziza and Kibibi, and half-sister Ilola were welcomed to Auckland Zoo from Werribee Open Range Zoo as part of the international zoo breeding and advocacy programme for this increasingly threatened African big cat.

Just a big cat 

Lions are the second largest of the world’s big cats, after Siberian tigers. Like many cats, lions can swim but aren’t big fans of water! This natural concern for water allows for the immersive habitat you’ll see at Auckland Zoo, with the beautiful moat and lush plants that border it.

Just like domestic cats, lions spend up to 20 hours a day resting or sleeping. You’ll often find them basking where there’s a nice, warm patch of sun. Their habitat features trees that provide shade during nap time, and if you’re lucky, you might spot one of these clever felines climbing up to get an even better view of the ungulates (Southern white rhino and nyala) next door!


Introducing our three beautiful lionesses!

Carnivore keeper Beth details the arrival of Aziza, Kibibi and Ilola from Werribee Open Range Zoo in Australia.

The lion’s share 

Our carnivore keepers provide Aziza, Kibibi and Ilola with a nutritious and species-appropriate diet. They also keep things interesting for our girls, with a variety of different meat options including venison, cow heads and horse legs. A lion's tongue is covered in small spines, making it feel a bit like sandpaper. This means they can make quick work of getting meat off the bone! 

And as lions can jump up to 3 metres in height, our carnivore team will also place food items up the trees to promote these climbing and jumping behaviours.

Another important sense is smell, and we stimulate our lions’ olfactory abilities with coffee, herbs, and spices, as well as scents from other animals. Lions are known to roll around in the faeces (poo) of prey animals to disguise their smell, making it easier to creep up on them from behind. Our keepers encourage these natural behaviours by providing fresh dung from some of our ungulate species on a regular basis.

Music to their ears 

Using positive reinforcement training, our carnivore keepers will ‘recall’ our lions back to their dens each night. To do this, they will use a special sound that our lions will instantly recognise. On every successful attempt, the lions are offered a reward of cat milk or small pieces of meat.  It is important to be able to recall the lions in the event of an emergency, and allows our keepers to give a visual health check or perform routine cleaning and maintenance around their habitat.