We are incredibly proud to announce that Kumba and Vigo arrived safely at the zoo in the early hours of this morning (28th February 2019). Settling in incredibly quickly and almost looking as though they have been here for years, the five year-old lion brothers are an awe inspiring sight. They tower above any of the big cats we already have here and our first chore will in fact have to be to enlarge the slides for them to get in and out of their bedrooms!!!.

The two lions have spent much of their lives to date in small compartments on a lorry, let out only when forced to perform. Following their rescue and subsequent rehabilitation at a special centre in Spain, the two lion brothers just made a 1,300-mile journey by road, Eurotunnel and ferry to reach their forever home, here with us at the Isle of Wight Zoo.

Animal carers at the zoo and zoo staff alike were taken aback by the sheer scale of these boys as they exited their travel crates this morning. Emotions ran high as we were unloading, but all went smoothly and almost auspiciously a rainbow appeared in line with Kumba’s crate – allowing us to believe we literally did have a pot of gold!

The smooth running of this operation is thanks to so many people. Firstly the amazing team over in AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection Primadomus in Spain. Their tireless work spent rescuing these animals is inspiring and their devotion to finding the animals they rescue forever homes commendable. Secondly the many hundreds of you who contributed by giving donations to allow us to do this. Zootrons animal transfers with Debbie and Roberto who made the incredibly journey look effortless with the boys on board. Redfunnel who kindly transported them to the Island for us. Closer to home and within our own team we have to make a special mention of Charl Bailie and her animal team (Caz, Sandra, Alan especially), Andy Harper and his maintenance team (Paul and Ian and electricians Gordon and Graham) and the exhaustive planning done by the full zoo staffing team ahead of their arrival. All along we have had the full support of our Chief Executive Veronica Chrisp along with the board members of The Wildheart Trust.

Thank you Thank you Thank you – Times infinity and beyond!

Last month we launched a fundraising campaign to enable us to fund the necessary enclosure upgrades and arrangements to import the lions ahead of post Brexit customs changes. Our concern was that any delay would not only have meant the lions spending longer at the temporary rescue centre, blocking space for more rescue animals, but port of entry changes would add further time and travel distance to what was already a tricky journey for big cats. We are so happy that we made this decision – look at the outcome!!!!

While the fundraising target hasn’t quite been reached, we are so close and if you would like to donate it is not too late – our justgiving page is www.justgiving.com/campaign/kumbaandvigo

As part of The Wildheart Trust, the zoo provides the accommodation and care element of the charity’s work with big cats and exotic animals – supporting rescue projects and raising awareness of the plight of animals who become victims of the circus and pet trade is what we do and we are incredibly proud to do so. To read more about the mission of the Trust – click here.