Cancer claims life of another lion at Denver Zoo

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Natal with lion cub Asali in 2005. Photo: Denver Zoo

Natal with lion cub Asali in 2005. Photo: Denver Zoo

DENVER — The Denver Zoo announced Tuesday the death of a female South African Lion.

“Natal was suffering from cancer and having lost her quality of life, zoo veterinarians humanely euthanized her the evening of July 22,” a statement from the zoo says.

Natal would have turned 16 years old in August.

She arrived in Denver then Predator Ridge opened in the spring of 2004. She was best known as the nurturing surrogate mother for an orphaned lion cub named Asali.

“We’ll miss her. Losing her so close to Rian the lion has been very hard for all of our staff,” says Predator Ridge Curator Hollie Colahan. “Our three remaining elderly lions are all similar in age and facing associated health issues. Our keepers love these animals and it’s just a difficult reality to face.”

Rian had cancer and was euthanized about one month ago. He was also 15 years old.

Biopsies conducted last week revealed Natal had cancer throughout her body. There wasn’t anything zookeepers could do except make her as comfortable as possible.

“This type of cancer is very aggressive and is not responsive to most treatments. Unfortunately, there was no course of treatment that could make her better. As she continued to decline, the humane decision was to euthanize her,” says Staff Veterinarian Betsy Stringer.

Lions have a median lifespan of 16.8 years in zoos and about 15 years in the wild.

Denver zoo staff members are watching the quality of life of 15-year-old Krueger, a male lion that has cancer. They’re also watching Baby, a 15-year-old female lion that has been showing signs of lack of appetite.

“Unfortunately, these lions that we have loved watching flourish in our Predator Ridge exhibit since 2004 are at the end of their life span. This is the hardest part of working at the zoo – knowing you’ll eventually have to say goodbye,” says Dr. Stringer.

The zoo is home to another 15-year-old male lion, Rajah, and two young lions. Sabi, a female, and Sango, a male, are both 1-year-olds.



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