“You love all your animals, but she was special,” a Lincoln Park Zoo official said after the African lion Myra was euthanized Tuesday at the North Side park.
“I think it’s important for people to remember her as a fun, loving cat,” Mark Kamhout, the zoo’s Curator of Mammals, said by phone Wednesday afternoon.
“She was a great ambassador for her species to the millions of people who come to the zoo every year. She was a very social cat, not only with the lions she was housed with, but the keepers,” he said.
Over the last week, zoo staff had noticed major health problems, Kamhout said. Myra was getting wobbly in her rear legs, and medication didn’t help enough. Once she was put under sedation, it was obvious her life was over and she was euthanized by the zoo’s veterinary staff.
Myra was 18, and the median life expectancy for lions in North American zoos is 16.8 years.
“It was a very difficult decision. She had a great life here,” Kamhout said.
She arrived at the Lincoln Park in January 1997 after being orphaned at South Africa’s Kampana Game Reserve, according to the zoo.
She was matched with Adelor, the zoo’s iconic lion who passed two years ago. In recent years, she had shared a “social pairing” with 4-year-old male lion Sahar, who came to Chicago from the Bronx Zoo.
“She was like a pseudo mom or auntie to him, but he’s doing well overall,” Kamhout said.
Kamhout will work with the Lion Species Survival Plan to find a new companion for Sahar, the zoo’s sole remaining lion. A female lion, either a companion or mate, could arrive at the zoo as soon within a few months.
“Either way, Sahar’s going to have a nice female friend,” Kamhout said.
Friends of the zoo are encouraged to share their memories of Myra at http://www.lpzoo.org/magazine/articles/farewell-female-lion-myra.