Folly Farm’s lions were the mane attraction today (Thursday), when delighted visitors watched the Pride of Pembrokeshire getting fed by British Lion and former Wales captain, Ryan Jones.
The Welsh rugby legend and his family were inches away from the big cats, separated from them only by the iron fence of their two acre enclosure and feeding them titbits of meat skewered on a broom handle.
The Pride of Pembrokeshire; male Hugo, Female Luna and their four cubs Sola, Zahra, Alika and Ebele arrived at the Pembrokeshire attraction just over three weeks ago.
They have spent their time settling into their new home, enrapturing visitors and staff as they grow in confidence.
“It was fantastic and terrifying,” said the exhilarated sports star after playing waiter. “Very rarely do you get the opportunity to get so up close and personal. Everybody here was only a metre away from a pride of feeding lions.
“They were far more daunting than some of the challenges that I have experienced in rugby. It was wonderful.”
The Pride of Pembrokeshire exhibit was officially opened by minister for economy, science and transport, Edwina Hart, on Thursday.
The minister was given a behind the scenes tour of the lion enclosure, being taken into the no man’s land between the lion’s external and internal space and quizzing zoo manager Tim Morphew on security, safety and how the big cats had settled in.
She then visited the ranger’s hut for a ring side seat as the pride came indoors, lured by chunks of meat wrapped in straw and secreted inside lengths of hose.
After viewing the big cats, protected by only 40mm of bulletproof glass the minister unveiled a plaque, officially opening the lion exhibit.
“It was a wonderful experience,” she said. “I really enjoy coming here. I think Folly Farm is a first class tourist attraction not only for Pembrokeshire but for West Wales. It is such a family friendly attraction. It was great to see all the children enjoying the lion enclosure. To think children have had the benefit of seeing lions at Folly Farm and learning a bit about them.
“I’d like to congratulate Folly Farm on their impressive new attraction which I hope will be a roaring success.”