Memphis Zoo Mourns the Loss of African Lion
MEMPHIS, TENN. - The Memphis Zoo is deeply saddened to announce the death of “Savannah,” one of the Zoo’s African lionesses. Savannah died March 12 at the age of 20, after her health began to dramatically decline earlier this month.
As Zoo keepers and veterinarians began to notice her decline, she was put on Zoo hospice care to closely monitor her health and keep her as comfortable as possible. Out of the Zoo's deep love for this animal, the decision was made to euthanize her in order to avoid prolonging any suffering.
“She was one of my favorite cats,” said Morgan Powers, longtime Cat Country keeper. “I’m going to miss her.”
Savannah was born June 18, 1994 at the Racine Zoo. She lived there until she moved to Memphis in March 2007. Savannah is preceded in death by her mate, “Fred,” who died of cancer in 2010.
“To me, she was such a quintessential part of the Memphis Zoo,” said Felicia Knightly, head veterinarian. “She was always a greeter for people when they came in. [She was] always on her rock.”
Powers agreed. “She loved her hot rock. And her yard.”
Savannah also loved food. According to Powers, every Sunday, the keeper staff would give her a shank bone to chew on. Not only was it a great form of enrichment, it also helped in the teeth cleaning process, much like a dog chews a bone.
“As she got older, she got more special treats,” Powers said. “Besides her shank bones she got beef chunks.” While always vocal, Savannah could especially be heard before, during and after mealtimes.
According to Fred Wagner, Cat Country keeper, Savannah was the most vocal lion of the Memphis Zoo’s pride. Even when she was in the nighthouse, she could be heard outside.
“She would greet us in the mornings and in the afternoons,” Wagner said. “The Zoo will be much quieter without her.”
“I loved her,” Knightly said. “She was majestic. She had such a presence.”
Savannah’s presence will be missed deeply by her Memphis Zoo family.
About the Memphis Zoo Lions
The Memphis Zoo has had African lions in our collection since 1906, when we acquired “Dwyer” from a circus passing through town. We have three lions, who form a mini-pride. We have two females, sisters “Akeelah” and “Jamela” and a male, their mate, “Thabo.” Thabo means “happiness” in Tswana, Akeelah means “wise” in Swahili and Jamela means “beautiful” in Arabic. Jamela is lighter colored, and more outgoing. Akeelah is darker, and tends to hang out in the back of the exhibit.
A lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles away. Savannah had the loudest roar out of the lions.