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Dec 1, 2008

Lily the lion


Hand rearing a lion cub at Belfast Zoo

Belfast Zoological Gardens is funded by Belfast City Council.

In the 1970s the zoo suffered from a negative image due to The Troubles. Despite significant investment in the 80s, calls for closures from councillors threatened its survival in 2003. It was vital to increase visitor numbers and income to show that the zoo was a popular and viable destination for visitors.

Lily the lion was born on 3 June 2007. Barbary lions are extinct in the wild. She was rejected by her mother at birth and hand-reared by a zoo keeper in her family home, with a Japanese Akita dog being used to encourage natural animal behaviour. Objectives for the communications plan were set in line with the zoo business objectives.

Creativity, good quality photography and moving imagery were vital in capturing the imagination of the public with this story. The uniqueness of the story transcended traditional market segmentation and appealed to a broad audience who were drawn towards cute animal pictures, while gaining an understanding of the role of the zoo through breeding programmes and conservation.

This campaign changed the perception of Belfast Zoo within the public’s consciousness and gave them a specific reason for visiting the zoo, and a reason to make a return visit to see a new attraction. Due to the increased footfall, Belfast Zoo achieved its highest ever visitor numbers in 2007 of 300,000.

This level is the highest in the 74 year history of the zoo and was achieved despite the wettest summer in Northern Ireland since 1958.


Belfast Zoological Gardens

COMMENDATION received in BIAZA Awards 2008 for Best public relations project



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