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Zoo Knoxville mourns death of Jimmy the 15-year-old African lion

The zoo said the lion had to be humanely euthanized because of age-related health issues.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Zoo Knoxville said it's mourning after its 15-year-old African lion, Jimmy, died Friday after suffering from age-related health issues.

The zoo said Jimmy lived a long life, but had been suffering from spinal issues often seen in older lions. Last week it said he began struggling with mobility in his hind legs, and when it became clear his condition and quality of life was not improving with medications, the zoo said they made the decision to humanely euthanize him.

“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.”

Jimmy was born at Zoo Knoxville in 2006 and lived with his long-time lioness companion Zarina in the Valley of the Kings. The zoo said Zarina will be given extra attention by her caretakers to help her cope with Jimmy's death, and said they hope to introduce her to the zoo's other male lion Upepo and female Amara to be part of their pride.

Credit: Zoo Knoxville
Jimmy the Lion in 2014

The zoo said the African lion population in the world is vulnerable due to depletion of their prey and illegal hunting and trade of lion body parts for traditional medicine. The zoo said its believed fewer than 25,000 lions live in Africa currently. 

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