Two decades on, king of the jungle returns to Sarajevo

Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:37am EDT
 
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By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Some still recall the roar of caged lions punctuating the long nights during the siege of Sarajevo.

Like the bears and other big cats, they starved to death after the zookeepers who risked their lives to feed them were killed or wounded in the bombardment by Bosnian Serb forces in the first months of the 1992-95 war.

Two decades on, the king of the jungle is back in the Bosnian capital.

A donation from Bulgaria, two lions arrived this month at the zoo's new "wild garden", a 225,000-euro ($293,000) enclosure built after four years of lobbying and fundraising by zoo workers and officials.

The lioness of the pair died shortly after arrival of unknown causes. An autopsy is pending.

But Esad Tajic, the zoo's general manager, said he expected the remaining big cat, a 3-year-old African lion, to help double the number of visitors to about 1 million a year.

"The king of the jungle remains here. The queen unfortunately died, but we'll make every effort to get a new lioness as soon as possible and start our own reproduction cycle next year," he told Reuters.

The lion's arrival has been big news in Sarajevo, where the zoo, nestled near apartment buildings half a mile from the city center, was once trapped on the frontline of a siege that raged for 43 months, killing more than 11,000 people.   Continued...

 
A lion is pictured at the zoo in Sarajevo April 17, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic