New lion enclosure officially opened

– Oct. 3, 2023

After a familiarisation period of a few weeks, the new lion enclosure in ARTIS Zoo was officially opened today by Sjaak Swart and pupils from Kindercampus Zuidas primary school. ARTIS was able to realise the new lion enclosure thanks to the massive support ARTIS received.

Manager Tjerk ter Meulen: 'Cautiously, the three lions took their first steps into their new enclosure last week. From the hill they looked out over their new territory and went out to explore as a trio. Over the past few weeks, the animals have been able to settle in peacefully. They were soon familiar in the new indoor enclosure and a few days later, the first spots in the new outdoor enclosure were territorially demarcated quite quickly. One of the lionesses was stretched out in the grass after just under an hour to feast on the plants.'

Historic milestone

'The relocation of the animals also marks a historic milestone. We are happy that with this we are also saying a final farewell to the limited Kerbertterras as a lion enclosure, a place that reminded many people of the old ARTIS. We are thus taking another important step in the renewal of ARTIS as a zoo and botanical garden.' 

Inspired by the African savannah

The new enclosure was designed by landscape architect Thijs de Zeeuw and architect Alexander Lefebvre. It is ten times larger in area than the old enclosure, but even more important is the layout that caters to their natural behaviour. It is a hilly landscape inspired by the African savannah in different seasons, with a dry and vegetated area.

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The basis of good animal welfare is ensuring that the animals have as many individual choices as possible. Such as resting areas in different sub-areas; an open sandy plain, an overgrown and rocky section on the hill and grassland along the water banks. The overgrown water banks will also soon be an attractive place for local birds such as herons, although entering them is at your own risk. The animals will be more physically challenged by a variety of climbing structures, and a catnip garden has been created in another area of the park. Indeed, despite the predators being carnivores par excellence, the scents of various plants are also an additional enrichment for felines. 

Spot the lion

In this new environment, visitors step into the world of the iconic animal and are challenged to look for the lions via various vantage points. With stories surrounding the enclosure, visitors, young and old, will discover all about the lion as a key species in its habitat, its vulnerable status in the wild and the lion as a symbol in different cultures and stories. Online, more than 180 lions were spotted on the streets of Amsterdam in recent weeks. View the map here .


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The current lion pride

The 11- and 12-year-old lionesses were born in ARTIS Zoo. The 6-year-old lion came to ARTIS at a young age in 2019 and is now proving to be a true leader of his pride. The lions are part of the European species conservation programme of the African lion. Globally, the lion is currently classified as 'vulnerable' in the wild, but its numbers have already halved in just 20 years. Until 2,000 years ago, lions even occurred in Europe, now only in sub-Saharan Africa and a small group of Asiatic lions in south-west India. Estimates of current numbers in the wild range between 20,000 and 25,000 lions and protection is badly needed. ARTIS supports and works with conservation organisation SPOTS Foundation to raise continued awareness among visitors about protecting lions in the wild. 

The enclosure is never finished

Tjerk: 'As time passes, the landscape will become more wild and the lions will further make their territory their own. But the enclosure is actually never 'finished'. In the coming period, students will conduct a welfare study. They will observe the animals for long periods of time and this will give us good insight into the lions' behaviour and welfare. The results will be shared in the species conservation programme and we will use them to make any adjustments to the enclosure.'