Detroit Zoo gets lion from royal family of Qatar

4-year-old Simba joins Detroit Zoo's two female lions


ROYAL OAK, Mich. – Simba, a 4-year-old male lion once owned by the royal family of Qatar, has found a new palace at the Detroit Zoo. The king of the jungle arrived in the United States from Saudi Arabia in October.

The family received Simba as a gift, but after a few years felt he would be better off in a more appropriate environment. "The owners recognized that they didn't have the expertise to properly care for lions and made the sensible decision to find Simba a good home," said Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) Curator of Mammals Robert Lessnau. "We're happy to provide sanctuary for Simba at the Detroit Zoo."


Now part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Program (SSP) for lions, Simba will eventually contribute to this important cooperative management plan to ensure genetically healthy, diverse and self-sustaining populations of threatened and endangered species in AZA-accredited zoos.

Simba joins the Detroit Zoo's two female lions. Bikira, 20, was born at an Arizona zoo and came to Detroit when she was 9 months old. Erin, estimated to be 11 years old, was rescued from a junkyard in Kansas in 2009. In the future, the AZA's lion SSP will identify another female lion as a mate for Simba with the intent of breeding and starting a family. Lions are the only species of big cat to live in a social group that includes adult males and their offspring.

Detroit Zoo visitors can see the lions year-round in their recently remodeled 7,500-square-foot habitat, which features a 17-foot-tall glass wall for a closer view of the big cats. Warming rocks near the glass provide the lions a toasty perch for people-watching in cooler weather.