Paignton Zoo is sad to announce that senior male lion Lucifer has had to be put to sleep.

Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling: “Lucifer was 17 years old, so he was a good age for an Asiatic lion. He was, like a lot of us, showing signs of wear and tear on his body. He had some weakness and ataxia – that’s wobbliness in his hind limbs – he would stagger occasionally, especially when going up and down steps, and often stumble.” 

Senior mammal keeper Helen Neighbour worked closely with Lucifer: “He was a lovely male lion – in that he was grumpy and bad tempered, but not too much. He always liked to have the last word.  He was a great dad and a lovely animal to work with – he was smart enough to train, so we could vaccinate him easily. Us keepers will miss him terribly.”

The zoo’s animal experts assessed his condition over a period of time and came to the conclusion that the best thing was to put him to sleep. Lisa Britton, Curator of Mammals, said: “You can do a lot to make an older animal comfortable, but in the end you can’t stop the march of time.”

Born at Cotswold Wildlife Park in 2002, Lucifer got his name because his number in the computerised animal record keeping system, which helps collections around the world keep track of animals, is 666. In June 2014, he moved to Devon from London Zoo in the hope that he would breed, joining mother and daughter Indu and Maliya. 

The move was recommended by the European Endangered Species Programme Co-ordinator for the species. Around 500 Asiatic lions survive in the wild; as many again are kept safe in zoos – Paignton Zoo is part of the international breeding programme that is trying to save the species.

Lucifer fathered two cubs with Maliya in June 2016 – male Yali and female Arya are the zoo’s two remaining lions. Zoo staff are in discussions with the European Endangered Species Programme about what happens next with this species. 
 

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