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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Rare lions are pride of Belfast
Barbary lions are now only to be found in captivity
Barbary lions are now only to be found in captivity
Three Barbary lions, a species extinct in the wild, have arrived at their new home at Belfast Zoo.

With all known Barbary lions in captivity, the zoo hopes to play its part in a breeding programme which will eventually see the impressive creatures returned to the wild.

Qays, an 18-month-old male, and females Thheiba and Sidda, were previously housed at Port Lympne Zoo in the south of England.

They are the first inhabitants of Belfast Zoo's newly-refurbished lion house.


Male Barbary lions are generally larger than other species and are distinguished by their thick black mane and belly hair.

Mark Challis, acting manager of Belfast Zoo, said he and his colleagues were delighted that their zoo had become home to "these three impressive lions".

"It is extremely sad that there are no more of these wonderful animals left in the wild," he said.

"Belfast Zoo hopes that we will be able to breed these animals and play our part in conserving this species."

The lay-out of the lion house now means that visitors will be able to view the new arrivals both in the open and inside.

The Barbary lion, in the past, was considered a "royal" beast and Roman emperors often had them imported from North Africa.

The species was certified extinct after the last known Barbary was shot in Morocco in 1921.

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