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Zoo News Blog

Houston Zoo Mourns the Loss of Female Lion

Photo by: Matthew Griffiths, volunteer

Nimue, one of the Houston Zoo’s female lions died this morning after animal care professionals found the big cat unexpectedly unresponsive, and that an incision had opened following a July 1 surgery to remove bone fragments stuck in her gastrointestinal track. Despite emergency intervention by the Zoo’s veterinary team, her condition was too severe, and the team made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the 12-year-old big cat.  

“It is never an easy decision to euthanize an animal, but it is one we make with the animal’s well-being as the top priority,” said Lisa Marie Avendano, vice president of animal operations at the Houston Zoo. “With world-class animal keepers, five incredible veterinarians, and a complete veterinary clinic, our animals receive the best care possible, and that includes end-of-life decisions.” 

In the final days of June, Nimue began showing signs of gastrointestinal distress and it was determined through a July 1 radiograph that she had bone fragments lodged in her stomach. At that time, the Zoo’s veterinary team performed emergency surgery to successfully remove the fragment. In the days following, Nimue was showing positive progress in recovery, and kept separate from her pride to ensure she had proper space and time to heal. 

Nimue and her sisters, Uzima and Mattie, have been beloved by Houstonians for more than ten years. Nimue was very energetic, especially when it came to interacting with her keepers. “Our team of keepers who have spent more than a decade caring and bonding with this incredible animal are grieving this loss, and we support them through this sad time,” said Avendano. 

Photo by: Jackelin Reyna/Houston Zoo

Nimue, and her surviving pride including her sisters and male lion Hasani, are ambassadors for their wild counterparts in Africa and serve to educate guests about the work being done to help save this vulnerable species.  The Houston Zoo is saving wild lions by providing support for African anti-poaching scouts to patrol thousands of miles a year to remove illegal traps and apprehend poachers in the areas where lions live.