Knoxville, Tenn. (WATE) — Jimmy, a 15-year-old African lion, was euthanized due to age-related health issues Friday at Zoo Knoxville.
Jimmy was born at Zoo Knoxville in 2006, and lived with his long-time companion Zarina in the Valley of the Kings exhibit. Jimmy was being treated for spinal issues often seen in lions of advanced age, but last week began struggling with mobility in his hind legs. The zoo says his condition was not improving with medications and his quality of life was quickly deteriorating.
“Jimmy was a noble ambassador that helped tell the story of one of the world’s most iconic animals,” said Phil Colclough, director of animal care, conservation and education. “Most of us will never have the opportunity to travel to Africa, but Jimmy gave us the opportunity to appreciate the regal presence and beauty of lions. He helped inspire people to care about the plight of lions and that will be his legacy here. We feel very fortunate to have had the privilege to care for him all these years.”
Zoo Knoxville says they will be giving his companion Zarina extra attention to help her cope with the loss of Jimmy, and in time they hope to introduce her to the zoo’s other male lion Upepo and female Amara to be part of that pride.
The population of African lions is vulnerable in the wild due to prey depletion and the illegal trade of lion body parts for traditional medicine. There are believed to be fewer than 25,000 lions living in Africa.