Perfume-loving lions at Whipsnade Zoo need unwanted Valentine's Day fragrances

Loved-up lions at a zoo are running low on their favourite fragrances, so people are being asked to donate any unwanted Valentine's gifts.

Whipsnade Zoo's African lions - Malik and females Waka and Winta - love discovering new smells, but their love for perfume and aftershave has meant the Bedfordshire attraction's stocks are diminishing.

Zookeepers are encouraging the trio to put their hunting prowess to good use, and to play with each other.

Some tactics include perfume-scented trails, or dousing their snacks in a strong aftershave and hiding them in trees and behind rocks.

Waka the African lioness holding a fragrance pouch Credit: Whipsnade Zoo

Keeper Steve Merrick-White said: "Spraying perfume on trees, in the long grasses or even in straw-filled hessian sacks allows our young pride to test out their hunting skills and utilise their magnificent sense of smell – but we get through a lot of it!

“We’ve all had to grin and bear being gifted perfume or aftershave for Valentine’s Day that we’re simply not a fan of. But rather than let it gather dust on your bathroom shelf, you can give it a second life and donate it to the big cats at our conservation zoo,” he said.

Lions, like all cats, have an extra smelling organ on the roof of their mouths called the Jacobson Organ.

Malik the male African lion Credit: Whipsnade Zoo

Mr Merrick-White said: “If you see a lion grimace, they’re not unhappy, they’re opening their mouths to take a large sniff of air.

"This allows lions to smell prey, or detect another lion, from more than five miles away - it’s what makes them king of the animal kingdom”.

Sisters Waka and Winta moved to Whipsnade last May from Belgium having been matched with Malik, who moved to the zoo from Germany.

Mr Merrick-White said: “While people may look online for love, it’s not so different in the animal kingdom.

"Waka, Winta and Malik have been paired together by a special matchmaker, but rather than shared hobbies or music tastes it’s because of their genetics.”

“It’s been 17 years since Whipsnade Zoo last had African lion cubs, so fingers crossed we won’t have too long to wait. It would be great for Whipsnade Zoo to play a part and be able to boost the number of African lions."

The lions are part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme.

Three-quarters of African lion populations are declining in the wild, driven by large-scale habitat conversion, the loss of prey through unsustainable hunting, and conflict.

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