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African Lion, Themba

African Lion, Themba

Posted May 2020

The Zoo is sad to announce its male lion, Themba, was humanely euthanized on Wednesday, May 6. He would have been 17 years old in July. The median life expectancy for male lions in human care is 16.9 years. (Animal care staff is not concerned Themba’s passing is related to COVID-19.)

In recent weeks, Themba was experiencing health issues consistent with older lions, including some lameness in his hind legs. Keepers were closely monitoring him, and part of the protocol was medication to alleviate some of these issues.

African Lion, ThembaThemba arrived at the Milwaukee County Zoo in 2005 from the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, along with his companion, Sanura, Themba sired three offspring in 2011, two males and one female. He also has four surviving grand cubs.

Keepers remember Themba as a majestic and strong presence among the other felines in Big Cat Country. However, with keeper staff who worked with him, he had a gentle and mild temperament. He was a favorite animal for staff to care for – affectionately known by keepers as “Chunky,” for his rather hefty body condition. He will be greatly missed by staff and visitors.

African Lion, ThembaHis keepers note he had a good quality of life until the end, as he continued to have choices where he wanted to be – in the outside yards, in his public habitat or in off-exhibit areas nearer to keepers.

The Zoo is home three female African lions: Patty Sharptooth and her offspring Amira and Eloise, recently arriving from the Sedgewick County Zoo in Kansas.