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Werribee Open Range Zoo


Visiting the lions at Werribee Open Range Zoo provides a rare opportunity to see these majestic animals up close. See why the lion is known as the ‘king of the savannah’ and learn about what threatens these magnificent creatures in the wild.

Lions once ranged throughout northern Africa, south-west Asia, Europe and India. Their range is now reduced to sub Saharan Africa, with an isolated sub species in the Gir Forest of India. Numbers are rapidly decreasing due to many factors including habitat destruction, which leads to a loss of prey and also puts lions in close contact with humans. One of the biggest threats to the lion population is retribution killing from farmers trying to protect their livestock. 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 known how many lions remain in the wild in Africa: recent estimates have ranged from around 16,500 to 30,000 animals. . As of 2008 Lions have been classed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN ‘red list’). 

An adult male lion stands just over a metre tall at the shoulder, is over three metres long (including his  tail) and on average weighs about 220kg. Females are considerably smaller. Cubs have spotted fur, 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.

Lions are the only cats to live in a family group, which is called a pride which can have up to 30–40 members. The pride is usually dominated by a single male or a coalition and mostly related females and their cubs. On average, the length of time in control of a pride is 2–3 years and competition among males to take over a pride can be ferocious!

Lions are carnivorous and hunt a variety of prey including zebra, wildebeest, impala, buffalo and warthog. The females of the pride hunt as a team using an ambush method. 


Born 2000

Jarrah was born at Melbourne Zoo in 2000 before moving to Werribee Open Range Zoo in 2004. Jarrah is very playful and loves hiding her favourite toys from Keepers. 


Born 2004

Johari arrived at Werribee Open Range Zoo from Sydney’s Taronga Zoo in 2012. Johari is a deeper thinker. He’s curious but cautious. He takes a lot in and really enjoys new smells and other kinds of enrichment. He is very respectful of Lionesses Nilo and Nairibi and patient with the cubs, taking his role as the leader of the pride very seriously.



Born 2012

Nilo is very curious and takes her time to process new things. She grew up in a pride with half-sister Nairibi and the two are very close. Nilo gave birth to her first litter of cubs in 2015 and is a very calm and devoted mother to the three boys, setting firm boundaries with Johari and Nairibi. The name Nilo is inspired by the Samburu people who live in the Melako conservancy of Northern Kenya.


Born 2012

Nairibi is very food-focused and particularly enjoys the enrichment items that keepers prepare. The name Nairibi is a Rendille word and it is the name of a community within Melako that is very active in our Beads for Wildlife program. Nairibi loves to play and is generally the first to start a game of chasey with her pride mates, making her a favourite with her young nephews!


Born 2015

Of the three brothers Kubwa is the most adventurous; climbing, jumping and attempting other aerial feats! He is generally the first to approach new situations and loves pouncing on mum Nilo’s tail, playing with his brothers and chasing Auntie Nairibi. His name is Swahili for ‘large’ – matching his big personality!


Born 2015

After a game or two with his brothers, Kito loves to cuddle up with mum Nilo, squeezing in between her paws for a snooze. He is a little more shy than his brothers and seeks Nilo out for reassurance. His name means precious in Swahili.


Born 2015

Kashka tends to sleep through a lot, and will often be the last to leave an area (despite Mum calling) because he's slept through everyone else moving! As Kashka matures he has become increasingly confident and is often the first cub to approach Keepers for food, sometimes pushing his brothers out of the way when it should be their turn to eat! He also seems to enjoy mimicking dad Johari, laying or sitting right near him in the same position – like two statues! His name is Nigerian in origin and means friendly.

Lion cubs debut video

Lion cubs make their debut

Werribee Open Range Zoo’s four ten-week old Lion cubs will make their debut this week.

Born on 13 December 2016, the youngsters spent the first few critical weeks with mum Nairibi in the privacy of a special nesting den, with staff monitoring the new family via CCTV cameras.

20 February 2017
Lion cub trio

Lions moving to Melbourne

Three young African Lions will soon be making the short trip from Werribee to Melbourne.

16 February 2017
Slumber Safari 2016 YouTube video

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.

  • 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