SOURCE: Denver Zoo

Denver Zoo

August 25, 2015 14:29 ET

Denver Zoo Mourns Loss of Lion "Rajah"

DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - August 25, 2015) - Denver Zoo is deeply saddened to announce the death of “Rajah,” a 17-year-old male South African lion. He was the last surviving member of the first group of lions to move to Benson Predator Ridge upon its opening in 2004. The Zoo’s animal care and veterinary teams had been treating Rajah for a variety of age-related issues for several years. After witnessing a significant decline in his condition over the last few weeks, they made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the elderly lion on the morning of Tuesday, August 25. The median life span of lions in zoos is 16.8 years, while lions in the wild live about 15 years.

“Rajah was a treasured member of our Denver Zoo family for so long and he was part of our ‘opening team’ of lions for Benson Predator Ridge,” says Denver Zoo Vice President for Animal Care Hollie Colahan. “Unfortunately, he was having more bad days than good and we never want an animal to suffer. We will miss him dearly.”

Rajah developed a number of age-related health issues over the last few years, most notably bouts of abdominal discomfort from what veterinarians found to be caused by numerous, inoperable cysts. For a long time, Denver Zoo’s animal care and veterinary teams successfully treated the symptoms with medications to alleviate pain, prevent nausea and protect his gastrointestinal tract. Unfortunately, as he continued to age, these bouts became more frequent, his appetite waned, and he responded less and less to treatment.

“Our goal was to keep Rajah as comfortable as possible. We’ve been monitoring him closely for several years, and due to his gradual decline, we felt the humane decision was to euthanize him,” says Denver Zoo Staff Veterinarian Betsy Stringer.

Born in March 1998, Rajah came to Denver Zoo from Tennessee’s Knoxville Zoo in November of the same year with his brother, Rian. The two lived together since their birth, serving as constant companions in their bachelor group until Rian’s death in 2013. The two were longtime favorites among Zoo visitors and were known for mutually affectionate behavior. Rajah proved to be surprisingly stoic and resilient at his brother’s passing and ultimately forged a friendship with Baby, an elderly female lion who died earlier this year. Rajah never sired offspring, but his legacy will live on at Denver Zoo through Sango, his 3-year-old, great-nephew.

Denver Zoo is currently home to three other lions; Sango and 3-year-old females Sabi and Neliah.

About Denver Zoo: Denver Zoo brings education alive, providing a unique learning experience that sparks an interest in the natural world for visitors and program participants alike. Home to 4,300 animals representing more than 600 species, the Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which assures the highest standards of animal care.

A leader in green action, Denver Zoo is the greenest zoo in the country and is dedicated to ensuring the safety of the environment in support of all species by attaining the highest environmental standards. Since 1996, Denver Zoo has participated in about 600 animal conservation projects in 62 countries on all seven continents.

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Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Tiffany Barnhart, APR
    (720) 337-1444

    Sean Andersen-Vie
    (720) 337-1418