As the result of a debilitating spinal condition and associated loss of mobility, African lioness Tia, 19, was humanely euthanized at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden on Saturday, July 13, at approximately 10 a.m.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) reports the median life expectancy for African lions in human care is 16.9 years. The life expectancy for the species in the wild is between 10 and 14 years.
In addition to typical age-related ailments such as arthritis, Tia had reduced kidney function, vision impairment and degenerative spinal disease. Over the past week, caretakers noticed significant changes in her behavior; she was lethargic and showed decreased mobility. By Saturday, Tia’s condition had not improved and it had become increasingly difficult for her to use her hind legs. Given her advanced age and the severity of her condition, the veterinary and caretaker teams made the difficult but necessary decision to humanely euthanize Tia.
Born at the OKC Zoo’s Lion Overlook in 1999, Tia and her sister Bridget were favorites among Zoo guests. In 2007, Tia birthed offspring Malaika and Zari, who made their forever home at the El Paso Zoo. This March, Tia underwent a successful eye surgery to help improve her vision.
The OKC Zoo’s Lion Overlook is home to African lions Hubert, 7, Dunia, 4, and Moto, 4.
Lions are classified as vulnerable, with populations in the wild decreasing due to poaching, disease and habitat loss throughout Africa.
The public is invited to leave their special memories of Tia on the Zoo’s social media sites at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
-Tyler Boyd, curator of carnivores
Photo courtesy Andrea Johnson