Dartmoor Zoo

Blog: The African lion king of Dartmoor Zoo

Posted: 27th May, 2024

For our 'Animal Champions' themed Love Your Zoo week, Emma Thomas, Marketing Manager at Dartmoor Zoological Society writes about the legacy of one adored animal.

I’m sure other members of BIAZA will agree, when you work in a zoological institution the love and adoration that you develop for the animals within your site becomes a large and pivotal role within your zoo life.

As a Marketing Manager, I feel privileged to be able to learn about these wonderful animals, each of their respective personalities and quirks, and in turn, sharing that with the public, watching their love and respect grow too. It’s a beautiful honour watching this love turn into inspiration, fuelling the next generation who can work to conserve species and protect this planet we call home.

Jasiri was a perfect embodiment of this. Large in stature but also personality, our male African lion was a force, making an astonishing impression on every member of staff, guest and even the residents of Sparkwell that could hear his morning call. With scars on his face and a glorious mane, Jasiri was imperfectly perfect. Audible gasps would escape people’s mouths upon sight of him. Whether it was from a fellow 90s child who is seeing the real life, physical embodiment of their favourite childhood film growing up, or a child experiencing the joy of seeing a lion in the flesh for the first time. He was truly awe inspiring.

When we talk about characters, it’s easy to think about those inquisitive animals that seemingly respond to their names or interact with the public, that steal hearts just by existing in a state of cuteness, but what made Jasiri special is that actually, he was almost the exact opposite to this. Jasiri was grumpy, dishevelled, fiercely protective of his partner Kimya and for whatever reason, this made people love him more.

When Jasiri died in May 2023, the loss was palpable. Thousands of photos and stories flooded our social media channels, discussing the ways in which Jasiri has impacted their lives. Some with soft and wonderful tributes catching a rare moment of almost kitten like playfulness, rolling on his back and playing with his paws. Some, more powerful, witnessing Jasiri sauntering over to rub himself across the fence, but then snarl to let you know he was the boss around here. Others to the point of uncontrollable laughter, where parents have ended up having an unexpected ‘birds and the bees’ conversation with their children after watching one of Jasiri’s more…intimate moments! Jasiri was often mentioned as the reason people travelled substantial distances to visit our zoo and in doing so, stole many hearts and became the people’s favourite, a champion for his species.

Writing this blog almost a year after his passing and yet, still feeling and remembering his personality so strongly is a testament to the lasting impression that animals can have on us. Jasiri may be gone, but he is certainly not forgotten and is still entirely missed. Living to a wonderful age of 16, this is evidence to the incredible care that these animals receive from our talented and dedicated teams and whether you’re a keeper and work closely with these animals, or you’re a guest who has left feeling inspired, a zoo experience can be a truly life changing one. We may unknowingly be creating a lifelong goal of becoming a zoologist, a photographer, a researcher, or a teacher to name a few and how lucky we are that our efforts, our dedication, our research, attention to welfare and global impacts can highlight why zoos are just as relevant today as they ever have been.

- Emma Thomas, Marketing Manager, Dartmoor Zoological Society

All blogs reflect the views of their author and are not necessarily a reflection of BIAZA's positions

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