VIDEO AND PICTURES: Iconic chalk ‘White Lion’ is restored at Whipsnade Zoo

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo has finished restoration work on the Whipsnade White Lion, a famous chalk image that has overlooked the Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire since 1933.

CLICK THE LINK ABOVE OR THE ICON IN THE MAIN IMAGE TO VIEW A PICTURE GALLERY OF THE CHALK LION RESORATION

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Following the donation of more than 800 tonnes – or 50 lorry loads – of chalk, the Zoo was able to start resurfacing the iconic landmark in September 2017. Winter weather and a steep incline made the restoration work challenging, but the final load of chalk was carefully smoothed out over the lion’s mane today (Tuesday 20 March).

General manager of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Owen Craft said: “We are delighted to have restored this iconic landmark to its original glory. ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is incredibly proud of the Whipsnade White Lion, which has stood proudly overlooking the Dunstable Downs since 1933.

“As a site of Special Scientific Interest, the Whipsnade White Lion and the area around it are cared for by the Zoo all year round, using environmentally-friendly products to protect the native plants and animals. This new coating of chalk has made a huge difference to the eye-catching brilliance of the landmark and I can’t wait for all our Easter visitors, as well as our wonderful, local communities, to see it looking so great, as they drive towards the Zoo.”

The Whipsnade White Lion was designed by R.B. Brook-Greaves, and work began to create it in November 1931. By the following April, the rough outline of the 147 metre-long lion was visible on the side of the Dunstable Downs. Ivinghoe Beacon was often used as a vantage point to check the accuracy of the outline. Almost two acres of land had to be cleared to reveal the chalk, and the lion was finally finished in the spring of 1933. During the Second World War, the lion was covered to prevent it from being used by enemy aircraft as a navigation point. In May 1981, as part of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the lion was illuminated using 750 lightbulbs.

Owen Craft continued: “This Easter, our family activities at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo centre around celebrating animal superpowers, and what could be a greater symbol of that than a 147 metre-long super-lion!”

Superpowers at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo runs every day from Friday 30 March to Sunday 15 April 2018.