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1937

The first lion house opened

By Chester Zoo

The first lion house opened - but again, not without controversy! In keeping with his 'zoo without bars' philosophy, George proposed building the outdoor lion enclosure with 12 foot high chain link fencing. This was a very innovative idea in those days, but the zoo council firmly opposed the idea on safety grounds. However, George was determined to go ahead and half of the zoo council resigned in protest! The chain link fence design pioneered here at Chester all those years ago is now standard in zoos across the world. The enclosure was opened by Lord Leverhulme, which contained two African lions acquired from Dublin and Bristol zoos.

The lion enclosure had central heating underneath the raised wooden floor of the cages that kept the animals warm during the colder months and 'an ingenious system of ventilation' which freed the house from smell.

One animal who wasn't very impressed with the new enclosure was Pelly the Pelican who tried to steal a guest's hat as he stood next to Pelly's pen. Then she persistently interrupted Lord Leverhulme's speech with rude cries!

In those days we had African Lions, nowadays the zoo keeps critically endangered Asiatic Lions.

See more: Mammals, Special Zoo Moments