Oct 17, 2013 8:04 PM by Kirsten Boyd

Lion killed during fight at zoo

One of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's female African lions, Jamila, died Thursday morning after an altercation with the Zoo's male lion, Abuto. Jamila was six years old.

At approximately 10:25 a.m., Jamila was in the main yard of the lion exhibit with two-year-old Abuto and Jamila's mother, Angie. A physical fight broke out between the two younger lions. Animal keepers immediately responded to the exhibit and attempted to intervene using spray from a fire extinguisher and noise distractions. They were able to call Angie away from the scene and secure her in the lion holding building, however Jamila and Abuto's fight had already resulted in fatal injuries for Jamila. Abuto was coaxed into a separate area of the building shortly afterward.

Abuto arrived at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo this past January as part of a cooperative breeding program through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). These programs are known within the organization as Species Survival Plans, or SSPs, and are an important part of preserving species of animals that are endangered in the wild. Abuto was specifically chosen to breed with Jamila's two sisters, Lomela and Zwena, because of their genetic compatibility. This potential breeding at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is considered very important to the SSP.

After completing a standard quarantine period, Abuto moved to the newly built Encounter Africa lion building at the end of March. Shortly thereafter, the Zoo's four lionesses, including mother Angie and sisters Lomela, Zwena and Jamila, also moved to the building from their old location within the Zoo. While the lions became familiar with the building, animal keepers worked closely with the AZA Lion SSP coordinator to create a plan for introducing Abuto to the four females.

In the wild, African lions often engage in fights. Female lions test male lions as they attempt to take over a pride, especially if the male is smaller or younger than the females. Because of this, great caution was taken by Zoo staff to introduce Abuto in a careful and gradual way to protect him from the aggressions of the established female pride.

"Jamila and Abuto had not had a physical altercation since mid-August," said Tracy Thessing, Director of Animal Collections for Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. "The last two times they were together, they did vocalize with one another but did not have any physical altercations. Because they were last seen behaving appropriately, this incident comes as a surprise to us."


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