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The Queen and Prince Philip open new lion enclosure at London Zoo

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Chloe Best
Lifestyle Features Editor
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The Queen was joined by Prince Philip to visit ZSL London Zoo on Thursday morning. The royal couple opened the new Land of the Lions enclosure, which will initially house four endangered Asiatic lions.

Wearing a pale blue coat and matching hat, the monarch appeared in good spirits as she was taken on a tour of the zoo by a group of staff with her husband by her side. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were among the first people to get a glimpse at the lions in their new enclosure, which has cost £5.2million to develop.

queen lions2 © Photo: PA

The Queen and Prince Philip visited ZSL London Zoo on Thursday

They spoke with members of the exhibit delivery team, zoo keepers and members of a conservation group before unveiling a plaque to commemorate the official opening of the exhibit. The Duke prompted laughter from a group of zoo keepers when he asked: "You've still got your hands, arms and legs?"

He also recalled going to the Gir Forest on a frustrating trip years ago. "We drove around all day but didn't see a single lion," the Duke told one zoo official.

The new enclosure covers 2,500sqm and has been inspired by the Gir Forest in India, with rickshaws, bicycles, sacks of spices and a life-size truck dotted both inside and out of the lion's space. The Land of the Lions enclosure will officially open to the public on 25 March, and is promised to play a "vital role" in the European breeding programme for the endangered species, of which only 500 remain in the wild.

queen lions1 © Photo: PA

The royal couple opened the new Land of the Lions enclosure

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh previously opened the lion terraces at ZSL London Zoo in 1976. Her Majesty also visited the zoo as a child in 1938, along with her sister Princess Margaret.

It is the second public appearance the royal couple have made in London this week, having attended the annual Commonwealth service at Westminster Abbey on Monday afternoon. The Queen and Prince Philip were joined by other members of the royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Andrew and Prince Harry, who is going on a tour of Nepal at the weekend.