Amid crisis, white lions stir excitement for Venezuela’s capital zoo

CARACAS, June 1 (Reuters) – Three white lions arrived at a Venezuelan zoo last week after an ocean-crossing voyage originating in Europe, part of a bid to boost visitors at a family-friendly capital attraction and a small sign of economic recovery for the crisis-racked country.

The zoo’s recent growth marks a rare bright spot amid a prolonged economic meltdown, giving even some poorer families with a taste for exotic animals an affordable excursion as kids enter for free and adult tickets cost $1.

The two-year-old lions, a female and two males, lazily yawned or paced the length of their cages on a recent visit, housed temporarily in small pens with concrete floors and piles of straw.

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“For Venezuelans that don’t have the economic means to travel far way to see these animals up close, this is really important,” said Caracas’ Caricuao Zoo official Bernardo Pereira, responsible for giving the big cats their daily meals of fresh meat and bones to chew up.

The rare white lions currently weigh about 120 kilos (265 pounds) each and were transported from a Czech Republic zoo.

Native to southern Africa, the majestic mammals are credited with attracting about 8,000 visitors last Sunday, a four-fold spike compared to past weekends, according to zoo coordinator Jesus Hidalgo.

The trio will remain quarantined through the end of this month or early July before they are moved to larger exhibit spaces with trees and plants.

Late last year, the Caricuao Zoo also welcomed three wallabies, two of which are albinos read more . Giraffes may be added later this year, said Pereira.

With the lions’ arrival, who have yet to be given names, the zoo boasts more than 300 animals from three dozen different species including primates, reptiles and other felines.

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Reporting by Vivian Sequera; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Sandra Maler

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