For Release: February 8, 2006
Peper Long (202) 633-3082
Sarah Taylor (202) 633-3081
African Lion Euthanized at National Zoo
Tsavo, a 17-year-old African lion, was euthanized Friday morning at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, following a dramatic decline in his physical condition and quality of life.
For more than a year, National Zoo veterinarians have been treating the elderly male lion for a degenerative spinal condition known as spondylosis, common in older, large cats. More recently, Zoo veterinarians also treated Tsavo for a common form of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma.
Working alongside keepers for several months, veterinarians were able to lessen the severity of his condition through medication. Keepers and Zoo facilities staff designed and built a custom bed as well as a special feeding bowlmodifications to his indoor exhibit that helped spare his back and made it easier to control his symptoms. In addition, keeper staff altered his outdoor exhibit to limit his jumping, reducing the risk of further damage to his spine.
Tsavo was born at the National Zoo on Nov. 15, 1988. Throughout his 17 years, Tsavo remained one of the Zoo's most popular animals, often delighting visitors with his healthy roar at dinnertime. He made significant contributions to the knowledge of lion behavior and management, as well as to the study of zoo veterinary medicine, specifically, degenerative disease in older cats.
In the wild, male African lions rarely live longer than 10 to 12 years; in captivity they live between 15 to 20 years.
The National Zoo currently has one female African lion, and has plans to acquire additional lions later this year.