A wildlife park has unveiled a new purpose-built lion house.
The building at Cotswold Wildlife Park, near Burford in Oxfordshire, has become home to the park’s two Asiatic lions, called Rana and Kanha
They are among the world’s rarest big cats and classified as endangered, with only 650 left in the wild.
The house, which took a year to complete, was officially opened by Prof Amy Dickman, who is joint CEO of conservation charity Lion Landscapes.
Prof Dickman, who is also a University of Oxford researcher, said: “It’s a really central place that can show them off to the public, but also have their welfare central in terms of making sure they’re well looked after here at the park.”
Challenged about the welfare of animals kept in captivity, Prof Dickman said she understood why people may not want to see the lions kept in enclosures.
However, she said she believed it was of wider benefit to wild lions and would increase understanding about the animals.
“By showing how amazing these animals are close up, it helps raise funds, it helps raise awareness of the issues facing wild lions,” she said.
“They are not only an attraction for people, but they are a resource in terms of education and scientific research as well.”
Features of the new enclosure include bark flooring, a straw bed and a large table, which the lions will use as a vantage point.
The building was the idea of the park’s carnivore keeper James Welch.
He said he had enjoyed watching Rana and Kanha move into their new home and that they had “settled in really well”.
The new structure marks the first major construction to be added at the park since 2010, when a giraffe house was built as part of the parks 40th birthday celebrations.