A WILDLIFE park near Swindon has unveiled a new home for its beloved lions. 

It is the first major habitat construction for Cotswold Wildlife Park since it built the new giraffe house in 2010 to mark its 40th anniversary. 

The new lion house was the brainchild of mammal keeper James Welch, and was opened on August 10 to coincide with World Lion Day, after a year of planning, development and construction. 

To mark the occasion, professor of wildlife conservation at the University of Oxford and conservation biologist Amy Dickman was invited to officially open the lion house. 

Prof Dickman said: "Lions are one of the most iconic species in the world and people have always been fascinated by them but they don’t realise how threatened they actually are. Wild Lion population numbers have declined by over 40 per cent in around twenty years.

"It's really unfortunate but there are probably only about six big lion populations left in the world today. When people think of endangered species, they tend to think of gorillas or elephants but actually, lions are in serious trouble and we need people to be more aware of that". 

The new building was designed with lions’ specific needs in mind.

Mammal keeper James Welch explained: "After a year in the making, our Asiatic lions, a male named Rana and a lioness called Kanha, have finally been enjoying their brand new indoor facility.

Swindon Advertiser: The two Cotswold Wildlife Park lions enjoying their new homeThe two Cotswold Wildlife Park lions enjoying their new home (Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park)

"This new area includes a large on-show communal space, which is larger than the whole of the previous lion house, as well as two private dens and an outside holding area. Lions are incredibly social but they also like their own personal space from time to time.

"Rana and Kanha are no different and this whole facility has been designed to give the Lions the opportunity to have multiple options and increased flexibility. This new facility reflects everything that we have learnt about keeping Lions at the Park. I am so pleased how well the Lions have taken to their new home".

Visitors can see the spacious new lion house, with large viewing windows, at the lion exhibit next to the giraffe house.

Reggie Heyworth, managing director of Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens, said: “It’s definitely the best lion house I’ve seen anywhere in the world – and I’ve seen a few!”