African lionesses help kickstart Aussie state zoo's major breeding facility

SYDNEY, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- Western Australia authorities opened a major lion breeding facility in Perth Zoo on Friday, with two new African lionesses expected to help kickstart its critical wildlife conservation efforts.

The breeding center, built at a cost of more than 3 million Australian dollars (2.17 million U.S. dollars), boasts special dens, holding areas and the capacity to house at least four adult lions and four cubs, state authorities said in a statement on Friday.

"Lions are extinct in 26 of Africa's 54 countries. The work being done in Western Australia will contribute to safeguarding genetic diversity and help provide a safety-net against total species extinction in the future," said the state's Environment Minister Stephen Dawson, who also opened the facility.

The two lionesses, sisters "Uzuri" and "Makeba", will become the new breeding females at the state capital zoo. The three-year-olds are expected to live to the zoo's 19-year-old lioness "Shinyanga", authorities said. The older feline occupies a separate area and the upgraded space will also be used to house male lions from North America.

There are as few as 20,000 lions left in the wild and "managed breeding" is critical for the species, according to authorities.

"Breeding for conservation is a game of patience. Zoo staff will work with their global zoo colleagues to transfer breeding males to Perth Zoo in the future to establish a new pride with the best genes from two hemispheres," said Dawson.

[ Editor: WPY ]


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