Werribee Open Range Zoo


A face to face meeting with a lion is a sobering experience and most are grateful for the glass that divides lions from humans at Werribee, where these powerful and impressive animals may be seen at very close range.

Lions are found in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. They once ranged through northern Africa, south-west Asia, Europe and India. Numbers are decreasing, as they are killed to protect livestock and as the numbers of potential prey dwindle. Sadly, a number of countries permit trophy hunting of lions, a practice that is justified as enabling conservation. Lions are also vulnerable to disease.

It is not know how many lions remain in the wild in Africa: recent estimates have ranged from around 16,500 to 30,000 animals remaining. Lions are now classed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN ‘red list’). 

Your visit helps to fight species extinction. Visiting the lions at Werribee is an opportunity not only to meet these magnificent animals, but also to learn about the threats to many African species and to get involved in the Zoo’s conservation program Beads for Wildlife, which helps communities and wildlife in Northern Kenya.

An adult male lion stands just over a metre tall at the shoulder, is over 3 metres long including tail, and averages about 220kg in weight. Females are considerably smaller. Cubs are spotted, and sometimes a few spots remain into adulthood on the legs and belly. Adult male lions are noted for their brown mane, which becomes darker and fuller as the animal matures and becomes stronger. The mane is apparently a sign of his strength and virility, as weaker males do not have such luxuriant manes.

Lions are the only cats to live in a large family group, called a pride. A pride can be as large as 30–40 members, mostly related females, their cubs and a small number of resident males. Dominating the pride is a single male, but more often a coalition of males. Competition among males to take over a pride is intense, and on average, the length of time in control of a pride is 2–3 years.

Lions are carnivorous and hunt a variety of prey including zebra, wildebeest, impala, buffalo and warthog. The pride hunts as a team, using an ambush method. It is more generally the females that hunt to feed the pride.

Meet the animals


Born 1996

Tonyi is the dominant male lion at Werribee Open Range Zoo. He and his brother Tombo were born at Philadelphia Zoo in 1996. They came to Werribee Open Range Zoo in 2004 via Auckland Zoo. Tonyi is identified by his round forehead and receding hair line.


Born 1996

Tombo is known for his fluffy full mane and the tuft of hair in the middle of his forehead. He and his brother, Tonyi, can often be seen hanging out together in the award-winning Lions on the Edge exhibit.


Born 2000

Jarrah was born at Melbourne Zoo in 2000 before moving to Werribee Open Range Zoo when the new lion exhibit was opened in 2004. Jarrah is playful and has favourite keepers from whom she receives her favourite meat treats.


Born 2004

Johari arrived at Werribee Open Range Zoo from Sydney’s Taronga Zoo in 2012.


Born 2012

Nilo is very curious and takes her time to process new things. She grew up in a pride with Niribi and the two are very close. The name Nilo is inspired by the Samburu people who live in the Melako conservancy of Northern Kenya.


Born 2012

Niribi is very food-focused and particularly enjoys the enrichment items that keepers prepare. The name Niribi is a Rendille word and it is the name of a community within Melako that is very active in our Beads for Wildlife program.


Lionesses prepare to join the pride

Lionesses Nilo and Niribi will soon join the pride at Werribee Open Range Zoo, as introductions with male lion Johari continue to progress.

15 April 2015
Tonyi and Tombo Birthday

Birthdays and Brotherly Love

Werribee Open Range Zoo celebrated the birthday of Lions Tonyi and Tombo today with a special treat prepared by Keepers and the Zoo’s team of volunteers.

They turned 19 on Tuesday 17 March.

17 March 2015
Slumber Safari - couple

Slumber Safari

Enjoy an overnight experience at the Zoo in our luxury safari camp. Your stay includes amazing close-up animal encounters, drinks and dips at sunset, a sumptuous dinner, unique night-time activities and breakfast alongside the meerkats.  

Did you know?
  • Males eat first even though they generally do not participate in the hunt. Females eat next, followed by the cubs
  • Only one in five lion cubs survives its first year. When food is scarce, feeding is in order of age and size, and the youngest and weakest do not survive
  • A lion’s roar can be heard up to 8km away! Up close, the grass flattens in the impact of a roar
  • A subspecies of lion, the Asiatic Lion, was once found all through India, the Middle East and Southern Asia, but now fewer than 300 survive in the Gir Forest National Park in western India