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Santa Barbara Zoo to reopen with two new lion residents

santa barbara zoo lions ralph felicia
Santa Barbara Zoo
Ralph and Felicia arrived at the Santa Barbara Zoo on May 6

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - When the Santa Barbara Zoo reopens next week, visitors returning to the grounds will be greeted by two new zoo residents: African lions.

Santa Barbara Zoo announced Wednesday that two new African lions will be in their exhibits for guests to see. The lions return to fill the void left from the death of the zoo's beloved Chadwick.

Ralph and Felicia arrived to the zoo on May 6. The two have a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). 

"We’re truly excited to safely welcome guests back to the Santa Barbara Zoo,” said Rich Block, President and CEO of the Santa Barbara Zoo. “While your next visit will feel different than before, we're confident our new lions Ralph and Felicia, along with Twiga, our new baby giraffe, will bring some much-needed smiles to a lot of faces!"

The zoo has been without lions since the passing of Chadwick last year. Chadwick lived alone at the zoo following the death of fellow lion Gingerbread in 2017.

The zoo says it has been working to bring in more lions prior to Chadwick's death.

The new lions arrived when the zoo was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. They traveled together and went directly to the lion holding area to get acquainted, zoo officials said.

Felicia was born at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina in April 2018. She lived in a pride with one male and six other female lions. She is only two years old and is not yet mature enough to reproduce.

Ralph was born at the Indianapolis Zoo on September 21, 2015. Ralph lived in a pride that included his brother, sister, and mother. Coincidentally, Ralph shares a birthday with Chadwick -- who also came to Santa Barbara from the Indianapolis Zoo.

“We have had lions at the Zoo for almost 50 years, so we are very happy about the arrival of these two new lions following a brief hiatus. African lions are considered ‘vulnerable’ and are disappearing quickly in some parts of their wild range,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, Vice President of Animal Care & Health. "We look forward to continuing our work with the AZA Species Survival Plan, ensuring a thriving and sustainable population for African lions in human care and contributing to the conservation and education efforts for this species."

Felicia and Ralph are sponsored by Premier Foster Feeder Angelo Mozilo, in honor of his late wife Phyllis. This sponsorship helped cover the expenses to move the lions, fix up their exhibit, and provide them with food for next year. You can also become a foster feeder, visit the zoo's website for more information.

You will need a reservation to visit the Santa Barbara Zoo once it reopens on June 23. To book a reservation, click here.

The zoo has been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on non-essential businesses. For a list of safety precautions the zoo is taking, visit their website.

Article Topic Follows: Animals

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Travis Schlepp

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