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The Knoxville Zoo is mourning the loss of an African lioness named Sekaye.

The 18-year-old lioness has been at Knoxville Zoo since 1997, one of the founders of the zoo's pride in the new Pridelands habitat, along with Aslan and Sylvan.

In 2006, she gave birth to three cubs, Ann, Bill and Jimmy. Billy now lives at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo in Indiana, while Ann and Jimmy are still in Knoxville.

Sekaye's caregivers had been treating the geriatric lioness for symptoms of a urinary tract infection. She got worse over the weekend, and was taken to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, where she never awakened from a procedure to diagnose her condition. The zoo says she "passed peacefully with her caregivers and vet staff by her side."

Sekaye was one of the matriarchs of the zoo's lion pride, and will be missed by her keepers and zoo visitors.

African lions are endangered, with only 200,000 estimated to be living wild on the African grasslands. Knoxville Zoo participates in the African Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP), a collaborative conservation effort by zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to ensure the survival of a genetically healthy population of African lions. Knoxville Zoo has had 47 African lion cubs born to date.

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