'Owl and pussycat' snapper and her passion for wildlife
AN ANIMAL lover and zoo enthusiast behind the photograph of a lioness and an owl which went round the world, has spoken of her passion for all wildlife.
Sheila Hassanein has been a zoo-goer ever since her father took her to see the animals in London.
The keen photographer and artist has been travelling the world extensively throughout her life and has visited zoos the world over.
However, Paignton Zoo remains her favourite.
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Mrs Hassanein, who was once a matron at the Royal Ballet School, spends every day at the zoo, enjoying watching the animals and interacting with them, talking to them or taking plenty of animal pictures.
She said: "I don't have a favourite. I love all of them. I find them fascinating. As you grow older you appreciate them differently from when you are a child. If you look at them long enough you learn to appreciate them and see the changes."
One of Mrs Hassanein's pictures showing Indu the lioness and a little owl became a worldwide sensation when it was splashed over national newspapers after appearing in the Herald Express.
Mrs Hassanein said she became aware of the unusual sighting when visitors commented about the owl in the lions' enclosure.
She didn't take much notice until three days later when again a young boy told his mum the little owl was near the lioness.
Mrs Hassanein had a look and snapped away the picture of Indu seemingly talking to the little owl by her paws.
It is thought the owl, which had fallen into the enclosure, later flew away unharmed.
She said: "It was a wonderful sight. I see so many wonderful and unusual things here."
The picture has since inspired author Alice Shirley to write a book about it.
The illustrated book, The Gentle Lion and the Little Owlet, tells the tale of the unlikely friendship between the King of the Beasts and the tiny fluffy bird.
The book, which credits Mrs Hassanein for the picture, is published by Pavilion.