The blue Hessen lion with the colorful mane at the zoo entrance is great for riding, as little David notices.

The Asiatic lions, on the other hand, have moved out of their enclosure because their outdoor area is being renovated.

Even culture department head Ina Hartwig (SPD) came to the "digger bite" because she is also responsible for the Frankfurt Zoo.

She is pleased that the old moat, eight meters wide and three meters deep, is to be converted into a landscape of sandy areas, rocks and varied planting so that the outdoor enclosure meets the criteria for the European Endangered Species Program (EEP).

The renovation of the lion complex costs 1.8 million euros, of which the city will pay 1.5 million.

75,000 come from the Frankfurt Zoo Foundation.

The Asiatic lion population, which once dominated the landscape of the Near East from the South Caucasus to India and accompanied archaic goddesses such as the Babylonian Ishtar, has dwindled.

"Less than 600 animals," says zoo director Christina Geiger.

And they live in Gir National Park in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

Until recently there were only 350, but last year Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of 674.

Geiger explained that there are still 150 in zoos worldwide and 113 in Europe.

The EEP stud book for Panthera leo persica is kept by Danish Zoo Aalborg.

Overcoming the distance between humans and animals

For the three lions in Frankfurt, the outdoor area is now to be more than doubled from 495 square meters.

Jobst Jung from the Frankfurt Office for Construction and Real Estate (ABI) is coordinating the extension, and landscape architect Ariane Röntz, who was already involved in the construction of the extremely successful penguin facility that opened in 2019, is implementing it.

For the three-level enclosure relief - rock, ground level, dry ditch - three views are planned for visitors: a raised wooden platform for the overall view, a grotto with glass panes for a direct view of the ditch and other glass panes at the height of the old enclosure level.

The boundary between lion and visitor territory should be more permeable, the distance between humans and animals should be overcome.

Two separate areas in the outdoor area are also planned in order to meet modern standards.

This possibility of separation is also necessary because father Kumar, who is currently housed behind the scenes with lioness Zarina, and his son Kiron, currently to be seen in the former tiger enclosure, clashed again and again, as is typical for lions.

At the beginning of the renovation work, the Head of Department and the Zoo Director, wearing white helmets like a double Athena, climb down to the excavator shovel, which bites into the earth of the drained moat, overgrown by tansy and yarrow.

There should be a total of 1030 square meters.

"Make room for the king," was the motto of a zoo fundraiser, which brought in 313,000 euros including third-party funds.

The “Königsgarten” should be ready in the spring of next year.