Cheyenne Mountain Zoo announced the death of a female African lion Thursday.
The zoo reports the lion, Jamila, died Thursday morning after "an altercation" with the zoo's male lion, Abuto. According to the zoo, it happened in the main yard of the lion exhibit.
Keepers tried to break up the fight between the animals by spraying a fire extinguisher and making noise, but they were too late to save Jamila. The lion sustained fatal injuries.
Abuto was brought to the zoo just this year, specifically to breed with Jamila’s two sisters, Lomela and Zwena, because of their genetic compatibility.
Abuto was also hurt in the fight, and the zoo says veterinarians will be keeping a close eye on him.
The zoo sent out the following information in a news release Thursday evening:
In the wild, African lions often engage in fights. Female lions test male lions as they attempt to take over a pride, especially if the male is smaller or younger than the females. Because of this, great caution was taken by Zoo staff to introduce Abuto in a careful and gradual way to protect him from the aggressions of the established female pride.
After two months of all five lions having free contact, some vocalizing and physical altercations continued among the pride. Because of this continued aggression, the Zoo began rotating free contact interactions between Abuto and two other female lions at a time, rather than all four. Angie, the eldest lion, appeared to be a stabilizing influence, so the Zoo paired her and Abuto with just one of the sisters at a time. This type of rotation is another common tactic in managing animal introductions.
“Jamila and Abuto had not had a physical altercation since mid-August,” said Tracy Thessing, Director of Animal Collections for Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. “The last two times they were together, they did vocalize with one another but did not have any physical altercations. Because they were last seen behaving appropriately, this incident comes as a surprise to us.”