DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Zoo announced Thursday that the leader of its African lion pride was euthanized Wednesday after battling health complications.
The 7-year-old lion, Tobias, had several medical conditions including an inflammatory bowel disease and a chronic kidney disease.
Tobias, or Toby, came to the Denver Zoo from the Buffalo Zoo when he was 3 years old as part of a plan to support African lion conservation efforts. It didn’t take long for Toby to do his part in the conservation effort and the zoo welcomed three of his cubs: first was Tatu in July of 2019, then came Oskar and Araali in April of 2020.
“When he met our female lions, he had a lot of manners to learn, but he was persistent and quickly helped grow our pride of lions,” said Kelsey, one of the caretakers at the zoo.
The Denver Zoo said the cubs “stole the hearts of everyone who laid eyes on them.” Toby was the best lion dad they could have asked for, the zoo said.
“Tobias was a very sweet lion who found joy in the simple things. He loved to play with his enrichment and sleep on his heated rocks while avoiding sneak attacks from Araali,” said Karli, another caretaker.
Several of Toby’s caretakers said he was a patient father and let his cubs climb on him and bite his fluffy mane and tail. One caretaker said he allowed his cubs to stay with him long after most male lions would have kicked them out of the pride.
The zoo said he taught his cubs how to be a lion, and he enjoyed playing and snuggling.
“When he was excited about something he would bounce towards it and looked so silly. He was always watchful and looking for what was down in the moat of his yards. We were never sure what he liked watching down there, but it always made me smile to see him checking it out, caretaker Katelyn said.
The zoo said his health declined notably this week. The Veterinary Medicine team at the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Animal Hospital found that on top of his chronic diseases, he had developed a severe infection that spread to his lungs and bones, which would make for a poor quality of life.
The recovery would make for a poor quality of life, the zoo said, so the Animal Care Specialists and Veterinary Medicine team made the difficult decision to euthanize Toby. He was surrounded by those who loved and cared for him.
The rest of the pride is doing well, the zoo said, but animal care specialists will continue to monitor his fellow lions.
The zoo said the Veterinary Medicine team will conduct a postmortem exam to better understand the full breadth of his condition.