Amsterdam's zoo Artis, one of the oldest animal parks in Europe, said on Thursday it will stop keeping lions because it can't afford them due to the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
"This was a difficult decision because the lions are part of Artis's identity," director Rembrandt Sutorius said in a statement.
Park attendance was down by 50% in 2020 and it is currently closed to the public entirely, with fixed costs of 60,000 euros per day and an accumulated budget shortfall of 20 million euros, Sutorius said in a statement.
Artis's two lionesses and one lion will now travel as a group in mid-February to a zoo in France where they will have more space than they had enjoyed in Amsterdam.
The park said there was no chance the same lions would return after the pandemic ends, but it did not absolutely rule out the return of lions to the zoo in the future.
The concrete lion enclosure at Artis, considered cutting-edge when it was built in 1927 because it relied on a moat and wall, rather than bars, to keep the animals contained, had been scheduled for a 4 million euro rebuild before the virus crisis began last year.
Artis has kept lions since 1839, a year after it first opened to the public.