Brookfield Zoo Mourns the Loss of African Lions Zenda & Isis

The new year has begun on a very sad note at Brookfield Zoo, as we have had to announce the passing of our male and female African lions, Zenda and Isis. They would have turned 14 and 15 this year, respectively.

Both lions arrived at Brookfield Zoo in 2008 and were an inseparable bonded pair in all the years since. It was not uncommon to see Zenda grooming Isis or sleeping with a paw on her in their Big Cats exhibit. He remained incredibly protective of her throughout their lives.

While Zenda did lose his impressive mane as he grew older, his majestic roar could often be heard from across the park and even outside zoo grounds. Over the years, Brookfield Zoo’s animal care specialists developed a respectful relationship with Zenda. He would cooperate in his own health care by participating in voluntary blood draws taken from his tail and presenting a paw for vaccine injections.

Isis was Brookfield Zoo’s first lioness in 15 years. Just before this past Christmas, animal care staff observed Zenda having difficulty standing and walking. Veterinarians had been treating his symptoms with medication to help ease the pain. However, on January 2, his well-being declined dramatically and the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize him. Preliminary necropsy results revealed that Zenda had several degenerative discs in his spine that had ruptured as a result of his advanced age and were inoperable.

On January 13, Isis was observed laying on the floor of the moat in the lion habitat. Although not witnessed, it appears that she fell and was injured. Despite the immediate and intensive treatment provided by the veterinary staff, Isis sustained significant injuries and the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize her.

The love for Zenda and Isis by zoo staff was matched by the outpouring of kind words and memories shared by guests and members in the wake of their passing. They were among the most popular animals in Brookfield Zoo and a memorable part of the zoo experience for so many people. They were also great ambassadors for their species at a time when African lions are vulnerable and in need of critical support.

We encourage you to share your condolences with staff, volunteers, members, and guests who remember both Zenda and Isis from their visits and will be feeling this loss.


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Posted: 1/14/2020 9:21:28 PM by Sean Keeley

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Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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