ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) - It's good to be king!
The lions at the Detroit Zoo have new and improved digs, thanks to a million dollar makeover.
Construction on the new habitat started in February, and after a long wait the lions are enjoying their new home, that has double the room to roam and new landscaping.
The lions' former 3,500-square-foot habitat was one of the first exhibits to debut when the Detroit Zoo opened in 1928. At the time, it was considered groundbreaking because there was a moat instead of bars, to give visitors an unobstructed view.
In the new habitat, the moat has been filled in and replaced with a 17-foot tall wall, with 60 glass panels. The lions' new home also includes warming rocks, so the lions can stay warm during the winter.
The original moat has now been filled in and replaced with a 17-foot-tall wall made of 60 tempered glass panels. Inside the remodeled 7,500-square-foot habitat, "warming" rocks have been built near the glass, giving the lions a toasty perch for people-watching in cooler weather.
For guests, there is a new 5,800-square-foot viewing plaza. "The ability to get closer to the lions will be exciting for our guests, and the increased proximity to visitors might prove to be a source of curiosity for the lions," said Detroit Zoological Society Executive Director Ron Kagan.
The Detroit Zoo is home to six lions, five of which were rescued. Bikira, 19, was born at an Arizona zoo and came to Detroit when she was 9 months old. Katie and Percival, also 19, were exotic pets that were confiscated and brought to the Zoo. Katie was relieved of "guard duty" at a crack house in 1992, and Percival was discovered in the basement of an abandoned home in 1993.
The Zoo's lion population doubled in 2009 when the Detroit Zoological Society saved three lions from a junkyard in Kansas. The rescued trio, male Larson and females Emily and Erin, are estimated to be about 11 years old.
The Detroit Zoo is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Labor Day. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens 62 and older, and $8 for children 2 to 14 (children under 2 are free). For more information, call (248) 541-5717 or visit www.detroitzoo.org .