CHICAGO — In the span of two weeks, Brookfield Zoo in suburban Chicago has lost both of its African lions, the longtime male-female pair Zenda and Isis.
The second blow, the death of the female after she failed to recover from a fall into her moat Monday morning, was unexpected, mysterious and especially difficult, zoo staff said.
All that workers really know is that Isis seemed fine in her enclosure when staff checked at 9 a.m. Monday, an hour ahead of opening, and then was next seen half an hour later unresponsive at the bottom of her more-than-15-foot-deep moat, said William Zeigler, senior vice president of animal programs.
The design allows a lion to climb back out on the habitat side after a fall, but Isis essentially did not move again during roughly 24 hours of treatment and observation, he said, and the zoo’s veterinary staff concluded the humane option was to put her to sleep Tuesday morning.
“Right now it’s just a tragic accident and we’re trying to make heads or tails of it,” said Zeigler. “It’s been very traumatic having to deal with Zenda and now having to deal with this loss, which was totally unexpected. The animal-care staff is so bonded with their cats, it’s like you with a housecat. It’s been hard for them.”
Zenda, 15, and Isis, 14, had been at the west suburban zoo more than a decade and were often seen grooming each other.
Staffers who care for the big cats watched Isis closely after her partner was put down Jan. 2, the result of profound age-related deterioration that an autopsy revealed to include inoperable, ruptured discs in his spine, the zoo said. full story