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Kings of the jungle in Dorman face-off

Two kings of the Middlesbrough jungle have come face to face at the Dorman Museum as ​Boro mascot Roary called in at the popular venue to welcome back one of its oldest residents.

Leo the Lion was one of the Dorman's launch exhibits in 1904, and has been proudly standing guard over the museum ever since.

But the last 115 years have taken their toll on the fearsome feline, with damage to his face, ears, bottom and tail, and a huge split down his chest.

Dorman Museum Access Officer Zoe said: "Over time Leo's become a beloved mascot and cornerstone of the Dorman's natural science collections, and he's much loved by the public.

"But the poor thing's been on display continuously since 1904 and he's been looking a little the worse for wear.

"It was clear that he was in urgent need of a major makeover if he was to continue as one of the museum's star attractions."

So earlier this year the decision was taken to book him in for some much-needed TLC, thanks to funding from NatSCA (the Natural Sciences Collections Association).

Leo headed off to Palumbo Conservation Services in Southampton, where an initial assessment revealed issues with previous repair attempts, pest problems and general wear and tear.

Restoration expert Bethany Palumbo treated him to a thorough clean, made him a new tail and new ears, repaired the damage to his face, sealed and covered the splits in his chest and bottom and re-coloured his coat.


And this week he roared back into town with a new spring in his step and a glint in his eye, to be welcomed home by fellow maned mascot Roary from Middlesbrough Football Club.

Zoe added: "Following his fantastic restoration, Leo can now enjoy many more years as a champion of the Dorman Museum's collections and be displayed for the enjoyment of generations of visitors to come!

"His return was perfectly timed to coincide with our major new ‘Safari' exhibition based on the industrialist Alfred Edward Pease's adventures in Africa.

"And it was particularly fitting that Roary - his only rival as the Boro's leading lion - should drop by to welcome him home."

Speaking through an interpreter, Roary said: "Respect to the old boy, he's led the way for decades and is still standing proud and looking good.

"It was an honour to meet him, but he's not the only mane (sic) man talking with pride about our town now." 

Pictured: (first) Leo the Lion in his original display case at the Dorman Museum; (second and third) Leo in need of a makeover after 115 years on display - and restoration expert Bethany Palumbo at work; (fourth) Leo restored to his former glory; (fifth) Leo is welcomed back to the Dorman Museum by Boro mascot Roary