Last evening, the National Zoo’s lion cub died. Lion keepers had been closely observing the cub, a male, via camera since his birth Tuesday morning. When keepers noticed the cub was not responding to its mother, they shifted the mother outdoors in order to examine the cub. A veterinary team confirmed his death.
Pathologists performed the necropsy and found a straw awn (the pointed tip on a blade of straw) in the cub’s lungs, which led to pneumonia and was determined to be the cause of death. The use of straw bedding for animals, including great cats, is common throughout zoos. There was only organic material in the lions’ den.
“Losing this lion cub is devastating for all of us at the National Zoo,” said Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoo. “I believe this was a one-in-a-million fluke. Unfortunately, this is the downside to the ‘cycle of life.’ But, the animal care team and Zoo staff are consummate professionals, and I know they’ve learned a tremendous amount from creating the pride, breeding the lions and getting Nababiep through her first birth. We mourn this loss yet keep our focus on the best care for the lion pride.”
Nababiep, the mother, has rejoined her sister Shera, and keepers plan to reunite the females with Luke, the male, very soon. Keepers will continue to watch the pride closely as this was the first cub for Nababiep.