Former Dacorum mayor offers to buy iconic Whipsnade chalk lion for peppercorn £1

It claims Whipsnade Zoo bosses have rejected his offer
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Former Dacorum mayor Gbola Adeleke is keen to buy and restore Whipsnade’s famous chalk artwork, the White Lion, according to a report on the BBC website.

It claims Whipsnade Zoo bosses have rejected his offer.

The 147m-long (483ft) lion, which first appeared on the Dunstable Downs landscape in 1933, is believed to be the largest hill figure in England.

The Whipsnade lion from the airThe Whipsnade lion from the air
The Whipsnade lion from the air

The Zoo’s chief operating officer Owen Craft said: "We are very proud of the iconic White Lion which has been overlooking the downs across Bedfordshire since 1933.

"It is extremely important to us and ZSL (Zoological Society of London), the conservation charity behind Whipsnade Zoo, to maintain ownership of the chalk grassland landscape."

The BBC claims Mr Adeleke has made five attempts to buy the lion – the first in 2019 – and has been rejected every time.

He said it was a family tradition to take his daughters to visit the lion at Christmas and he was concerned it was not being cared for properly.

But a team of volunteers joins the Zoo's horticulture department every Thursday to clear the landmark of weeds.

Mr Adekele said he valued any volunteering work going on “but I have not seen any evidence of it . . . at the moment the lion has almost disappeared."

He added: “I'm not a rich man, but I've got the will and the determination to bring it back to its former glory.”

The White Lion is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is a habitat for different species of orchids and butterflies.

Mr Craft said: "Whipsnade Zoo takes great care of the area, with a specific management plan in place which is approved by Natural England.

"Due to the importance of the area we only use environmentally-friendly products and do much of the weeding by hand to ensure we are not causing any damage to the native plants and animals that live near the White Lion."

The 90-year-old chalk landmark was spruced up with 800 tonnes of fresh chalk in 2018 but according to Mr Adeleke it has been sitting in a pathetic state for nearly five years.

"I just hope the managers at Whipsnade Zoo will rethink their strategy," he said.

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