Get in line to pet the king of the beast at Zoo World’s new lion exhibit

Panama City Beach

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — For over two years, the lion exhibit at Zoo World was closed, but now it’s back and ready to offer you a roaring good time.

The new pride of lions includes one male and two females who have been living at Zoo World for a while now but are ready to move into their new permanent home.

Kayte Hogan, Zoo World director said they’ve missed having a lion exhibit since Hurricane Michael destroyed it in October of 2018.

“It’s not easy to build a lion exhibit, this is a very large animal, it can be a very dangerous animal,” Hogan said. “We’ve taken this long to build it because we’ve put so many precautions behind it.”

The exhibit was constructed by highly qualified experts. Hogan said this was important to ensure the safety of everyone.

“This exhibit more than doubles the space that the lions have,” Hogan said. “As we’ve been renovating the zoo, we really are working hard to bring all of our animals bigger better exhibits.”

Hogan said now, the lions have more space, the guests have more viewing opportunities, and more interactive opportunities.

“There’s even a place where you can pet the lions, very safely,” Hogan said. “It’s a private experience that you can participate in and we’ve figured out a way for you to be able to pet as safely as possible, the king of the beast.”

And just in case, touching fur isn’t quite enough, Hogan said the interaction also includes smelling them and feeling the heat of their breath.

In addition to the lions, Zool World also has added a new species to their park.

“We unveiled a new species this evening, and it’s a hyena,” Hogan said. “You can’t have an African section without hyenas so lions and hyenas.”

Hogan said they share a yard, but they won’t be on exhibit together.

“If you come in the morning, the lions may be outside, and if you come in the afternoon, the hyenas might be outside,” Hogan said. “We’ve all watched Lion King, we all know that they don’t really enjoy each other very much but they do have a back yard to play in when they are not in their front yard.”

Hogan said the hyenas are the largest species of hyena and are called “spotted hyena” or “laughing hyena.”

“We have two boys and they are delightful and they laugh all the time and they are so excited and they are just so fun to watch,” Hogan said.

Sunday’s event was members only, but from Monday on, the lion exhibit will be opened to all visitors.

“Cajun Christmas is going on until December 24 so if you want to have your picture taken with Santa and his alfigator, come out to the zoo, see the new lions, the new hyenas,” Hogan said. “And get your picture with his alfigator, there is not a better Christmas photo anywhere.”

Zoo World is currently holding a toy drive for Toys for Kids until December 24.

“We’ll give you an entry into a raffle to win an African experience and a bungie stick so you can feed the birds while you are here,” Hogan said.

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