Denver Zoo loses leader of African lion pride

Denver Zoo loses leader of African lion pride
Posted at 2:49 PM, May 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-02 18:15:22-04

Denver Zoo announced Monday that it is mourning the loss of the leader of their African lion pride.

"Sango" was just 3 years old. The median life span of lions in zoos is 16.8 years. 

“This is devastating for us. Our time with Sango was way too short," said Staff Veterinarian Betsy Stringer.

Sango began having severe seizures a little over a week ago.

Animal care and veterinary staff did everything possible to help the lion, but the muscle tremors worsened, zoo officials said.

An abdominal scope showed that Sango’s liver was highly abnormal and his gall bladder was enlarged, officials said. Veterinary staff treated Sango for a condition called hepatic encephalopathy, which affects brain function after the liver is unable to clear blood toxins from the body.

Sango’s condition continued to decline, despite intensive treatment.

The muscle tremors became so debilitating that Sango couldn't walk or position himself to drink water.

"His condition worsened so quickly and so severely that euthanasia was our only option,” Stringer said.

Sango was humanely euthanized on Saturday, April 30.

“This is truly a tragedy. Sango was adored by staff and delighted guests. He will be dearly missed,” said Hollie Colahan, Denver Zoo Vice President for Animal Care.

A full necropsy, an animal autopsy, will be conducted by veterinarians at Colorado State University.

Sango was born July 28, 2012 at Ellen Trout Zoo and was raised by zookeepers after he was not accepted by his mother.

He came to Denver Zoo in June 2013 to begin a new young pride. In September 2015, with 3-year-old Neliah, he fathered male and female cubs Kalu and Kamara.

Zookeepers say he was very playful, but sometimes timid until the cubs were born, which seemed to give him with confidence. He was very patient with them and allowed them to play with his mane and chased them around their yard.

MORE | PHOTOS: Denver Zoo's new lion cubs Kalu and Kamara make debut

In addition to Neliah and her cubs, Denver Zoo is currently home to one other adult lion, 3-year-old female Sabi.

Cards for Sango will be available for guests to sign at the Zoo’s Benson Predator Ridge exhibit.