Lion Passes at the Zoo

The Zoo is deeply saddened to announce the loss of its patriarch African lion, Mramba. The Animal Care team had been regularly treating Mramba for arthritis and chronic kidney disease, due to his advanced age. Recently his kidney disease progressed into end-stage renal failure and when Mramba’s quality of life had decreased to the point where medications were no longer keeping him comfortable, the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize him.

“As one of the oldest lions in human care at more than 18 years old, Mramba was a longtime beloved member of our Zoo family,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “We find comfort in knowing that he was given the best possible care every day of his life and have been fortunate to share his legacy with our community,” Bockheim added.

Mramba arrived at the Virginia Zoo in 2004 as a part of a breeding recommendation through the Species Survival Plan. Once at the Zoo, he was introduced to Zola with whom he sired seven cubs between three litters. The average lifespan for a lion in the wild is 10-14 years and in human care is about 16 years. Animals live a longer life in human care due to the advanced medical care, diet, husbandry and overall wellness of the animal being documented and managed for each individual, no matter the stage of life. Whereas in the wild, older animals are easy prey for predators and illnesses are untreated.

The Virginia Zoo is home to many other elderly animals who have reached advanced ages due to the exceptional medical care they receive at the Zoo. Zola, Mramba’s mate, passed in 2020 at nearly 16 years old. Last month, Asia, a female white-cheeked gibbon, was humanely euthanized due to quality-of-life concerns. At age 48, she was one of the oldest white-cheeked gibbons in North America. Her species typically lives an average of 25-28 years in the wild. It’s an all-staff effort to manage this process, from care for the animals, wellness checks and diet plans, to educating visitors and telling each animal’s story.

The Virginia Zoo will continue spreading the important story of saving African lions as it welcomes three new lions to its pride. A male and two females will be arriving from other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited institutions in late spring.