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Lions Ghana and Lydia take pride of place at Johnsons of Old Hurst





Lions Ghana and Lydia have taken up residence at Johnsons of Old Hurst.

The male and female UK-born animals join crocodiles, tropical birds, snakes, deer and meerkats at the zoo on the site, which is also home to a farm shop, butchery and bakery.

Ghana and Lydia, the African lions who now have a new home with Andy Johnson at Johnsons of Old Hurst. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ghana and Lydia, the African lions who now have a new home with Andy Johnson at Johnsons of Old Hurst. Picture: Keith Heppell

Andy Johnson, who is the fourth generation of the family to be involved in running the site, told the Cambridge Independent that the lions came from a private owner who ran a business that provided them to film companies, but improvements in CGI has limited demand.

As he was getting older and less able to care for them, the previous owner offered the lions to Johnsons of Old Hurst, near Huntingdon, which was well-prepared to look after them.

“The conditions were all set out – space, pens, enclosures, safety measures from our staff,” explains Andy, whose wife and two sons are also involved in the day-to-day running of the shops and zoo.

“You have to make sure you meet all of the guidelines. The recommended area is about 1,000 sq m, we’ve got 2,500 sq m on the flat – plus there’s 1,500 tonnes of soil there now which has made a mound which increases that area.

“There’s as much stimulation for them as they want, but obviously being lions all they really want is to sleep!”

Ghana and Lydia, the African lions who now have a new home with Andy Johnson at Johnsons of Old Hurst. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ghana and Lydia, the African lions who now have a new home with Andy Johnson at Johnsons of Old Hurst. Picture: Keith Heppell

Andy notes that lions have become extinct in 26 African countries in the last 20 years.

“It’s looking like by 2050, at the current rate, they’ll be extinct in the wild,” he says. “Let’s hope that’s not the case – let’s hope we get something in place and they’re protected.”

The lions are unable to reproduce as Lydia had to be spayed due to ovary problems as a cub.

They are fed on muntjac, roe deer and Chinese water deer. Andy said: “As you’ve seen in the press lately, there’s a huge problem; our deer numbers are the greatest they’ve been for over 1,000 years, and they’re trashing all our woodland – 73,000 road accidents a year are caused by deer, and they’re an invasive species.”

The lions are also given items from the on-site butcher’s shop such as pigs’ heads and offal. Feeding time is always popular among visitors.

How are the lions settling in? “Perfectly, they’re extremely settled,” replies Andy, “but that’s all to do with where they came from; they’re very used to being around people.”

Ghana and Lydia, the African lions who now have a new home with Andy Johnson at Johnsons of Old Hurst. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ghana and Lydia, the African lions who now have a new home with Andy Johnson at Johnsons of Old Hurst. Picture: Keith Heppell

For more information on Johnsons of Old Hurst, visit johnsonsofoldhurst.co.uk.



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