Lions have a very special place in the heart of Yorkshire Wildlife Park as they were the first animal welfare project undertaken. The pride of lions at Yorkshire Wildlife Park were rehomed from Oradea Zoo in Romania where due to lack of funds and expertise they were kept in very poor conditions. At the time, Lion Rescue was the largest big cat rescue in Europe. They now live happily, roaming their nine-acre reserve at Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

In Romania, the lions were living in filthy concrete pens, fed on a meagre diet of scraps and faced an uncertain future. The new director, Diaina Ghender, realised that the zoo could not care for them and contacted YWP to see if they could re-home the lions.

At the time, YWP was a new park and did not have the funds to re-home and care for the lions but with the help of the News of the World launched a massive campaign `Lion Rescue’. The public rallied for the cause and raised £150,000 which helped bring the lions back to Yorkshire. A team of big cat experts from zoos around the UK travelled to Romania to help load the 13 lions.

A team of big cat experts from zoos around the UK travelled to Romania to help load the 13 lions. The snow did not help! The lions arrived in February 2010 – donated the use of a plane and with special permission, they were allowed to land at Doncaster Airport. The pilot began his descent from Amsterdam in order to mitigate the effect of the pressure on the lions’ ears! The world’s media was watching and the lions became world famous overnight.

The 13 lions included two cubs, Dani and Simba who were then aged just eight months old, and Jonny Senior who was 27 years old. All the lions rediscovered their health and have been a favourite with visitors here at YWP in the purpose built Lion Country Six years on, there are 9 lions in Lion Country: Dani, Simba, Maria, Carla, Crystal, Julie, Allis, Adel and Ares.

“Whatever else we achieve Lion Rescue will always be special as it was the first time we really made a difference for a group of animals on a significant scale and demonstrated that YWP and YWPF is about animal welfare as well as conservation. Everyone who supports us should be proud.”Cheryl Williams, YWPF CEO


Listed as a vulnerable species, African lion numbers have been reduced from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands in the last few decades. Once found throughout the vast African continent, they are now in just a handful of protected areas in southern and East Africa. The main threats to the lions are disease spread by domestic animals like dogs, hunting, poaching and Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC).

Lions Vulnerable


Affected by: Hunting, Human Conflict, Habitat Loss & Prey Depletion

The main causes of such a decline is due to indiscriminate killing in defence of human life and livestock, habitat loss, and prey base depletion. Although prey base depletion is partly linked to habitat loss it is linked more importantly to poaching and bushmeat trade.




Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation are funding a three year £34,500 initiative at an African national reserve to protect lions. The landmark project will pay for a whole range of new measures, including the recruitment of rangers to track and monitor the lions. Much of the funds came from visitors to Yorkshire Wildlife Park making donations after enjoying days out at the Park.

Now thanks to the fundraising the Foundation has made the £11,500 a-year grant to the acclaimed international conservation organisation Fauna & Flora International. The work will take place at the Niassa National Reserve in Mozambique and the partnership represents a major advance to combat poaching and disappearing habitat.

Lion Conservation