Abilene Zoo Mourns the Passing of Botswana the Lion

 

ABILENE, TX -- For the second time this year, the Abilene Zoo is mourning the passing of a beloved animal.

On Friday, the zoo announced the death of Botswana, an 18-year-old lion. According to officials, Botswana was euthanized after he suffered a stroke that severely limited his mobility overnight.

"Losing an animal is never easy," said Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Stephanie Carle, "Knowing our staff did all that was possible to help Botswana live a long life and pass with dignity brings us peace."

Botswana, who would have turned 19 on June 23rd, had been declining healthwise. Approximately three years ago Botswana was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and developed high blood pressure and other conditions associated with the disease. Last week a physical exam showed his condition progressed significantly.

"Animal care staff pour their hearts into caring for all of the animals daily, and it is like losing a family member when it is time to say goodbye. Our team has prepared for this day because we knew that Botswana was reaching the end of his life due to his advanced age," said General Curator and Animal Care Manager Denise Ibarra. "We truly mourn the loss of the animals we come to love, and Botswana will forever be a part of the Abilene Zoo."

Botswana was born June 23, 2002, and outlived the average 16-year life expectancy of lions in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos by nearly 3 years. He arrived at the Abilene Zoo in 2003 from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado.

He enjoyed shank bones and enrichment items doused in perfume. His favorite training activity was getting up on the scale to check his weight. Botswana bonded with a female lion named Saba, following the AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP) guidelines. The iconic pair had their first and only litter in 2010; five rambunctious cubs who stole the hearts of West Texans. Botswana was an exceptional dad, letting the cubs jump and play all over him while he napped. Botswana's cubs have since started prides in various parts of the world, including Disney's Animal Kingdom.

"The fact that Botswana lived a longer than average life span with kidney disease shows the great care that our team provides the animals,” stated Zoo Director Jesse Pottebaum. “We will miss Botswana's regal presence and trademark roar every morning at the zoo. It is the end of an era."

Botswana enjoyed shank bones and enrichment items doused in perfume. His favorite training activity was getting up on the scale to check his weight. Botswana bonded with a female lion named Saba and the iconic pair had their first and only litter in 2010. They had five rambunctious cubs who stole the hearts of West Texans. Saba passed away last year after zoo staff noticed she was lethargic and didn’t have her usual appetite.

Botswana was an exceptional dad, letting the cubs jump and play all over him while he napped. Botswana's cubs have since started prides in various parts of the world, including Disney's Animal Kingdom.

The zoo's Africa zone still features three lions (on temporary loan from the Fort Worth Zoo); a male lion named Jabulani and two females, Abagebe and Saba.

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