Perth Zoo’s lioness sisters, Makeba and Uzuri, enjoyed a roaring surprise for their big cat birthdays today.

The majestic felines were given presents containing their favourite food type, meat, to celebrate their fifth birthday.

Perth Zoo Keeper, Petra Hancock said: “Engaging their natural curiosity and well-developed sense of smell, it didn’t take the lionesses long to uncover the treats.”

Makeba and Uzuri arrived from Taronga Western Plains Zoo in NSW to Perth Zoo in 2018, as part of a coordinated zoo program to safeguard a future for lions. 

“The sisters have been together all their lives and that bond has remained close since they arrived here,” Petra said.

“Our lionesses play a very important role as ambassador animals for their vulnerable species.”

The wild lion population is declining with the IUCN Red List estimating only 23,000 to 39,000 individuals remain. They have gone extinct in 26 of Africa’s 54 countries.

“Despite being skilled predators, the biggest threat to lions is sadly humans,” Petra said.

“In the last few decades we have lost half the lion population, with hunting, the exotic pet trade and unsustainable tourism practices continuing to hinder their future.”

Perth Zoo is advocating for lions by educating visitors about big cat conservation and how everyone can play a part in protecting these amazing animals.

“I encourage anyone visiting the Zoo to take some time to attend the free keeper talks or read the signs in our lion exhibit and become more aware, especially when choosing tourist activities that can impact lions,” Petra said.

“When travelling, think twice about that photo opportunity with a lion cub. It might look cute, but typically they’ve been taken from their mothers, suffering from poor welfare and when older, used in trophy hunting.”

Visitors can see first-hand why it is so important we secure a future for lions by booking into a close encounter experience with Makeba and Uzuri.

“Follow one of us Zoo keepers right into the lion’s den, learn more about Makeba and Uzuri and their wild counterparts as you watch the lionesses tucking into their lunch from up-close,” Petra said.