BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A female lion was fatally injured while being introduced to a newly acquired male companion at the Birmingham Zoo in Alabama, officials said Tuesday.
Akili, who was born in 2005 at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and had been at the Birmingham Zoo since 2007, couldn't be saved after being injured by a lion named Josh, who had been at the zoo since April.
Akili had five cubs along with another African lion in 2011. When her mate died in 2021, the Birmingham Zoo worked with the Lion Species Survival Plan to find her a new companion, according to the zoo.
Josh arrived in April.
The slow process of introducing the two lions to each other had begun previously, the zoo said in a statement.
“Animal introductions are always risky because wild animals can be unpredictable and we cannot control their interactions,” said Hollie Colahan, the zoo's deputy director, in a statement. “Unfortunately, Akili sustained serious injuries within the first few minutes of the meeting and despite immediate intervention by the Animal Care and Animal Health teams, she succumbed to her injuries and died Monday afternoon.”
The introduction was done on a day the zoo was closed so no visitors were present, said Jennifer Ogilvie, a spokeswoman.
“Josh is fine and will continue to receive the excellent care he always receives,” she said.
Chris Pfefferkorn, Birmingham Zoo President, and CEO, said the loss of an animal is always sad, but it's particularly difficult when it is sudden and unexpected.
“Please keep the amazing team and everyone that worked with Akili in your thoughts as there are no words that can ease the pain of such a spontaneous loss," Pfefferkorn said. "We are thankful that so many in the community had a chance to see and experience Akili, she was a great ambassador for her wild counterparts.”
Dozens of people expressed sorrow over Akili's death in response to an announcement by the zoo on social media.
“How devastating. She was a beauty!” one person wrote.