NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Royalty has arrived in Norfolk; There’s a new king of the jungle in charge at the Virginia Zoo.
The Virginia Zoo has a new male lion named Ansel, and two female lions are expected to join him soon.
The 5-year-old came from the Henry Vilas Zoo, in Madison, Wisconsin, and can now be seen by visitors after going through a routine quarantine.
He’s considered fully-grown at 450 pounds and has a “beautiful, full-bodied” mane.
“Not only are we excited to bring in this young family of lions, but we are also delighted at the prospect of having cubs in the near future which is crucial to the long-term survival of this species,” said Greg Bockheim, executive director of the Virginia Zoo.
The female lions, Asha and Kali, will turn 5 at the end of April. The zoo says all three lions were endorsed to be sent to the Virginia Zoo based on a breeding recommendation by the African Lion Species Survival Plan.
Staff is excited that their new male lion could further the circle of life by fathering new cubs.
“Ansel is our 5-year-old new lion, He’s about 450 pounds, he’s been here for about two weeks this is only his first or second couple days out on exhibit,” said Emily Spence with the Virginia Zoo. “He is loving the weather because it’s a lot warmer here than it was in Wisconsin. He’s been enjoying the back area for the first few days, and he was here and he just loved being out in the sunshine.”
This big cat is already becoming a zoo favorite.
“The people love him and they always loved our older lions that we had to here before, so those general public is just so happy to see us have lions in here again at the zoo,” Spence said.
The zoo says it’s also made improvements ahead of their arrival, including modifications to support “howdying,” the name for the slow introduction process for lions.
“He’s a fun guy. He’s gonna be great out on the exhibit. He loves playing with all the enrichment that we’ve given him. He’s very active today he spent the entire day watching the zebras and the watusi
“We’re gonna have these guys for hopefully a long time, and we are recommended for breeding so we are hoping that maybe we’ll have some baby lions in the future. We’ll be getting the females soon then hopefully by summer, we’ll have all of them out here together,” Spence said.
For now, he’ll just have to enjoy the bachelor life.
The zoo will host a house warming party for the new lions after the female lions become acclimated and more activities will be announced on social media.