Philadelphia Zoo Euthanizes Oldest Lion In The U.S.

Lioness Zenda, born at the Johannesburg Zoo in 1991, was one of the “most loved and most popular animals” at the Philly zoo.

Zenda, an African lion believed to be the oldest in a U.S. zoo, was euthanized Thursday in Philadelphia.

The 25-year-old lioness was hampered by “an acute decline in her mobility and behavior,” the zoo said in a statement Friday. A lion in the wild has a lifespan of 15 to 18 years. In captivity, that extends to 25 to 30 years.

“This remarkable cat will be missed by staff and guests alike, particularly by the keepers who catered to her changing needs as she grew old,” said Dr. Andy Baker, the Philadelphia Zoo’s chief operating officer, in the statement.

Zenda was born at the Johannesburg Zoo in South Africa in July 1991, then moved to Philadelphia in 1993. She was one of the institution’s “most loved and most popular animals,” the Philly zoo said. 

Kay Buffamonte, Zenda’s keeper for 24 years, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the animal was a calm peacemaker.

“She was the one that held everyone together,” Buffamonte recalled. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the African lion as “vulnerable,” one step below endangered, because of habitat loss and human conflict.

Philadelphia’s zoo is also home to the nation’s oldest polar bear, 36-year-old Coldilocks.