Virginia Zoo mourns death of African lion Emery after decline in health

Norfolk

Emery the lion at the Virginia Zoo (Photo courtesy: Virginia Zoo)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Zoo is mourning after humanely euthanizing an almost 4-year-old African lion named Emery under the zoo’s care.

After numerous medical treatments and medications stopped working and Emery’s quality of life began to decline despite habitat changes and other care, the zoo’s veterinary team made the decision to euthanize the lion.

The zoo said on Monday that the decision was made recently.

“We are devasted about the loss of Emery, especially at his young age,” said Greg Bockheim, executive director of the Virginia Zoo. “All living things, plants, animals and humans, encounter disease and illness that impact their lives. Our role in caring for animals is not only the long-term survival of their species, but to provide the best quality of life for each individual while they are in our care through every stage of their life.”

The zoo said epilepsy in lions is not common, and there is no cure. Many humans can live a long life despite the disease, but caring for animals with the same condition can be challenging and unpredictable, the zoo said.

Emery was born at the zoo Oct. 28, 2017 to Zola and Mramba. His mother, Zola, died at nearly 16 years old in spring 2020 after problems developed with her liver. Emery was one of seven cubs mothered by Zola.

Mramba just celebrated his 18th birthday, surpassing the average lifespan of a lion under human care, which is about 16 years. Mramba is being treated for arthritis and chronic kidney disease by the zoo’s veterinary team.

The Virginia Zoo works with the African Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP) to help manage the lion population in North America. The SSP will be assigning new animals to the zoo in the coming year, the Virginia Zoo said. The SSP maintains the genetic pool of lions in human care for the long-term survival of its species.

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