Zoo Welcomes Lions to Sioux Falls

The Great Plains Zoo and Butterfly House & Aquarium (GPZ/BHA) is thrilled to welcome African lions back to Sioux Falls for the first time in 31 years!

The lions, Simba and Amahle, were each recommended by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ (AZA) Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP) program to come to GPZ, due to their genetic diversity and other factors. The goal is that they will become a new breeding pair.

Simba arrived in mid-May from the Detroit Zoo. He is 15 years old. Simba moved to Detroit from Qatar as a young lion. While in Detroit, he sired one cub. His care team describes Simba as vocal, responsive, and attention-seeking.

Amahle arrived in late May from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C. She is 10 years old. Zookeepers describe her as very playful, enjoying carrying and batting around barrels and balls.

Ribbon-cutting for GPZ’s new lion habitat is June 28. The lions need the next month to acclimate to their surroundings, their care team, and to each other. This species-specific exhibit is one of the largest built for African lions in North America, providing a dynamic environment for a pride of lions, providing engaging year-round indoor/outdoor public viewing opportunities. It will feature two indoor viewing spaces, a training window, and a kopje rock viewing area, in addition to multiple outdoor yards for the lions.  

The structure also includes a habitat for a meerkat mob, which will arrive in Sioux Falls soon from yet another AZA partner zoo. GPZ’s current meerkat pair, Biff and Clementine, will remain in their exhibit in the giraffe building for the foreseeable future.

Lloyd Companies is the project’s prime contractor. The exhibit was designed by Ackerman-Estvold, with assistance from TSP, Inc. This project is the culmination of an $8 million public/private fundraising campaign that began in 2018.