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Helsinki's Big Cats Dine on Feral Park Bunnies

Lions and other big cats at Helsinki's Korkeasaari Zoo got their first taste of home-grown feral bunnies on Wednesday.

Kaniateria maistuu Korkeasaaren leijonalle

Feral bunny populations - descendants of former pets - are booming in downtown Helsinki, decimating many public and private gardens.

Parks officials began trapping the rabbits last year and freezing them for big cat dinners this winter. The list of bunny diners includes lions, snow leopards, tigers, lynx, wolverines, weasels and even vultures.

"It's very balanced nutrition for a lion," explains zoo veterinarian Eeva Rudbäck. "It's a perfect little package, with fur and bone and meat, a little heart too. They've been gutted but I hope they still have some of the liver, that's got a lot of vitamin A."

She also notes that it is more environmentally friendly to use locally-caught wild rabbits than ship in substitutes from Hungary, for example.

However, with only around a thousand bunnies in the freezer, they are intended more as a treat than a staple of the big cat diet.

"Bunnies are also a stimulus. The cats lose interest if they get 20 bunnies, it's not fun any more," says Rudbäck.

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