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Honecker Gift to Hometown Zoo Enough to Make an Old Lion Roar

September 10, 1987|Associated Press

NEUNKIRCHEN, West Germany — East German leader Erich Honecker gave an aging, lonely lion in West Germany something to roar about when he sent his hometown zoo in Saarland state a young lioness.

"Prince (the lion) roared when he saw her. He's an old guy and is thrilled to have got such a young lady," zoo director Helmut Reichling told reporters Wednesday.

Honecker will visit his birthplace in Neunkirchen today for the first time since 1948. He is the first leader of the East German Communist Party to visit West Germany. The lioness was sent to West Germany by train Monday.

The lioness is an Indian lion, a much rarer breed than her African lion companion. There are only about 300 Indian lions left in the world, and about 100 of them live in zoos, Reichling said.

It is not known if the 20-year-old Prince and the 4-year-old lioness will be able to start a family. "At 12 to 15 years, lions are already senile," Reichling said.

Prince has been pining since his former mate, Claudia, died May 13.

Reichling said he wanted to start raising Indian lions.

The lioness will initially be kept in a separate cage, where she can see and hear her intended mate. She will only gradually be allowed to come in contact with Prince.

"We're handling her carefully, so she can get used to her new surroundings,' Reichling said.

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