Lion enclosure opens at Hunter Valley Zoo | PHOTOS, VIDEO

The roar of Bruiser the African lion could be heard from afar as a crowd gathered to welcome the three new lions to Hunter Valley Zoo on Friday.

The opening of the new exhibit was a big coup for the Hunter zoo and has been in the planning for four years.

The three lions, Bruiser, Kuchani and Asali are now permanently on display in a purpose-built $150,000 enclosure, complete with 220 sheets of welded mesh and hundreds of metres of turf.

They made the trip from their old home at Sydney's Taronga Zoo on Tuesday.

"There hasn't been lions in the Hunter since the late 70s," zoo owner Jason Pearson said.

"Now we are the closest facility to see lions outside of the Sydney CBD, so it is a massive step for us."

The family of lions were still settling in to their new surroundings on Friday and there was plenty of trepidation from Bruiser who was not enjoying all of the attention from keen onlookers.

"Bruiser is 16 years old and he has spent those 16 years in the same house so this is a big change for him," carnivore keeper Danielle Rae said.

"He is definitely the shy one and is still getting used to his surroundings.

"He is a good looking male lion."

Bruiser was born in Mogo Zoo on the south coast of the state, but was moved to Taronga at two weeks old.

He was paired with Kuchani who is 14-years-old and together they had cub Asali, 12.

"She's my cheeky girl," Ms Rae said.

"She will be straight out of the den to explore the enclosure."

The lions were moved to the Hunter Valley to enjoy their retirement in the country.

Male lions in the wild live to about 10 and female lions to about 18 years old.

Once they have settled in there are plans to bring in three younger lions next year.

The best time to see the pride is the morning when they are at their most playful.

Zookeepers scatter cat food, milk and even perfume around the enclosure to entice the lions to play and rummage for their dinner.

By lunch time the pride prefer to nap in the shade and spend almost the same amount of time asleep as a koala.