PEORIA — If you report that less growling is going on at the Peoria Zoo, that wouldn't be lyin'.

Three young lions, born in Peoria in December 2015, have been moved on to a warmer climate, the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.

The departure wasn't unexpected. It's part of the Lion Species Survival Plan in American Zoo Association institutions that seeks to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse lion population in captivity.

Nevertheless, saying goodbye to the three lions was difficult, said Yvonne Strode, the Peoria Zoo director.

"Having watched them grow from day one, it was hard to see the girls go, but we are thrilled that all three were transferred to the same facility," she said.

There are still lions to look for at the Peoria Zoo, said Strode.

"Visitors will be able to view the parents, Arthur and Lizzie, every day, who will now have the whole place to themselves," she said.

The remaining lions are housed at the zoo's Africa! exhibit, an area reminiscent of the Zambezi River that also features red river hogs, colobus monkeys and a white rhinoceros among a number of other African species.

Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com. Follow him at Twitter@SteveTarter and facebook.com/tartersource.