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8-year-old African lion housed at Phoenix Zoo dies of infection

(Courtesy photo)

PHOENIX — An 8-year-old African lion who called the Phoenix Zoo home passed away this week, zoo officials announced Wednesday.

Kitambi passed away on Tuesday night, spokeswoman Tara Henson said in an email. He had been showing signs of acute lameness on Friday, which led to staff monitoring his condition.

His behavior continued and he became more lethargic with a loss of appetite, Henson added.

Zoo officials decided to administer an anesthetic to Kitambi on Monday and found that he had cellulitis, or a bacterial skin infection, on his right rear leg.

Blood work also showed that there was a severe depletion of his white blood cells, which indicated a severe, systemic infection.

Kitambi’s health deteriorated rapidly, and despite the animal care team’s efforts to provide him with more supportive care, including IV fluids and antibiotics, he died on Tuesday.

He was transported to Midwestern University’s College of Veterinary Medicine on Wednesday for a necropsy, or an autopsy performed on an animal.

Bert Castro, the president and CEO of the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation and Phoenix Zoo, said in a statement that zoo officials have taken the death to heart.

“It is a very difficult time for the zoo family, especially for Kitambi’s immediate care team,” he said.

“The animals in our care become an extension of our family and Kitambi will be missed by many who cared for him.”

Kitambi was born at Columbus Zoo in 2011 and has called the Phoenix Zoo home since 2012. He resided with Cookie, a 20-year-old female African lion.

He was described by officials as handsome, magnificent and breathtaking who would provide guests with a true experience.

“Sometimes that experience was watching him enjoy his mid-morning naps. Other times, it was his awe-inspiring territorial call in the evening. And maybe it was just spending a few moments staring at his majesty,” zoo officials said in a statement.

“No matter when you saw Kitambi, the experience was both unique and profound.”

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