Park News

Cotswold Wildlife Park unveils new home for its Endangered Asiatic Lions ahead of World Lion Day

August 2023

A year in the making, the new Lion House is now complete. Brainchild of Mammal Keeper James Welch, it’s the Park’s first major new construction since the Giraffe House was built in 2010 to commemorate Cotswold Wildlife Park’s 40th anniversary. The new Lion House will become an important focal point to raise awareness of the plight these endangered animals face in the wild.

Professor Amy Dickman cutting the ribbon to open the new lion house next to mammal keeper James Welch. Photo credit: Philip Joyce

To mark the occasion, Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Oxford and conservation biologist Amy Dickman was invited to officially open the Lion House (pictured above with Mammal Keeper James Welch). Professor Amy Dickman said: “Lions are one of the most iconic species in the world and people have always been fascinated by them but they don’t realise how threatened they actually are. Wild Lion population numbers have declined by over 40% in around twenty years. It’s really unfortunate but there are probably only about six big Lion populations left in the world today. When people think of endangered species, they tend to think of Gorillas or Elephants but actually Lions are in serious trouble and we need people to be more aware of that”.

Professor Amy Dickman by the New Lion House Photo credit: Philip Joyce

The impressive new building was designed with Lions’ specific needs in mind. Mammal Keeper James Welch explains: “After a year in the making, our Asiatic Lions, a male named Rana and a Lioness called Kanha, have finally been enjoying their brand new indoor facility. This new area includes a large on-show communal space, which is larger than the whole of the previous Lion House, as well as two private dens and an outside holding area. Lions are incredibly social but they also like their own personal space from time to time. Rana and Kanha are no different and this whole facility has been designed to give the Lions the opportunity to have multiple options and increased flexibility. This new facility reflects everything that we have learnt about keeping Lions at the Park. I am so pleased how well the Lions have taken to their new home”.

James (pictured below) adds: “Rana and Kanha were quick to enter their new house and started to explore straight away. Lots of scent marking, rolling and scratching was seen around all parts of the building and lots of affiliative behaviours too. They were very reliant on following each other into new parts of the building with comforting calls to one another from time to time. This was lovely to see and shows the social nature of these animals. Lions are very tactile creatures and display their bond this way by sharing their scent – this is something our pair have displayed in all of their new areas. They have been a reassuring and comforting presence to each other when investigating their new home. Both have settled in extremely well and are clearly already very comfortable.”

Keeper James Welch on the scaffolding of new lion house in 2022. Photo credit: Philip Joyce

Visitors can see the spacious new Lion House, complete with large viewing windows, at the Lion exhibit next to the Giraffe House. Reggie Heyworth, Managing Director of Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens (pictured below), said: “It’s definitely the best Lion House I’ve seen anywhere in the world – and I’ve seen a few!”.

L-R Professor Amy Dickman, Keeper James Welch, and Reggie Heyworth, just before the ribbon was cut. Photo credit: Philip Joyce

Additional information: 

Lioness Kanha taken by Mammal Keeper James Welch Male Lion Rana taken by Mammal Keeper James Welch

  • The Park is home to Asiatic Lions – one of the world’s rarest big cat species (male Rana pictured right). It is estimated that there are only 650 Asiatic Lions left in the wild and they are classified as “Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • African Lion population numbers are in steep decline. In 2022, the estimated Lion population in all of Africa was 24,000, half what it was only thirty years before. This makes the African Lion even rarer in the wild than the White Rhino. Cotswold Wildlife Park proudly supports conservation organisations working in Africa to mitigate human-wildlife conflict, including Lion Landscapes (of which Professor Amy Dickman is Joint CEO) (, UK-based conservation charity Tusk (, Kope Lion ( and Safina Lion Conservation (
  • Asiatic Lions (Panthera leo persica) were once found throughout much of South-West Asia. They are now only found in one isolated area – India’s Gir Forest. This region is the sole home to this subspecies and is considered to be one of the most important conservation areas in Asia. In 1900, the Gir was declared “protected” by the ruling Nawab of Junagadh, Sir Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III. He pioneered conservation efforts which saved the world’s last Asiatic Lions from almost certain extinction when population numbers plummeted to critical levels – as low as 200 individuals left in the wild.
  • Lions became extinct in Europe during the 1st century A.D.
  • Lions are the only cats with a mane.
  • World Lion Day is observed annually on 10 August. Now in its tenth year, it aims to raise awareness about the plight of Lions in the wild and the urgent need for their conservation.

Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens