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July 24, 2014

Oldest lion at the Kansas City Zoo is euthanized

Dumisani was 18 years old and had numerous health issues. He had lived at the Kansas City Zoo nearly all his life after coming here in 1997 from the Indianapolis Zoo.

The oldest lion at the Kansas City Zoo was euthanized Thursday after the veterinary staff was unable to treat him successfully for numerous health issues, the zoo announced.

The male lion, named Dumisani, was 18 years old and had lived at the Kansas City Zoo nearly all his life after coming here in 1997 from the Indianapolis Zoo.

Although formidable in appearance, the lion was known for a nonconfrontational demeanor.

“He reminded me of a house cat until you saw him rip apart a bone or place his enormous paw on the window,” zoo director Randy Wisthoff said in a statement announcing the death. “He will be missed.”

Dumisani’s parents were from the wild, making his genes desirable for breeding. The zoo brought in two females from Africa in 1998 to further diversify the gene pool among the captive population.

But the zoo discovered that the lions had feline immunodeficiency virus and were not suitable for breeding. Officials decided to allow one litter to be produced to increase the size of the zoo’s pride.

A second litter, however, was not anticipated. The females had undergone a contraceptive procedure, but one of them became pregnant anyway.

In all, Dumisani sired seven cubs in two litters, creating one of the largest prides among American zoos. All of those lions remain here.

The virus is spread by exposure to other cats, so Kansas City cannot participate in a cooperative breeding program among zoos until they die off.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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