22 December 2020

Lioness and two cubs die at Mogo Wildlife Park

| Hannah Sparks
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Lioness Zuri lying in her pen with two suckling cubs.

Zuri feeding her two healthy cubs 12 hours before she died. Photo: Supplied.

Mogo Wildlife Park’s treasured lioness, Zuri, has tragically died three days after giving birth to her first cubs.

The seven-year-old lioness had given birth to two healthy cubs on 8 December, however a third cub was born deceased and a fourth was unable to be birthed. It was Zuri’s first pregnancy and there had been complications with the death of the two cubs, and sadly she died on 11 December.

Zoo staff carried out an emergency caesarian to try and save one of the cub, however it had already died and caused severe internal rupturing to Zuri due to its size and positioning.

The blessing was that Zuri was able to return to her den after the mammoth procedure and let the two healthy cubs suckle for 12 hours, which will give them the best start to life.

Lioness Zuri lying in the sun at Mogo Wildlife Park.

Zuri had a huge personality and will be missed by the staff at Mogo Wildlife Park. Photo: Supplied.

“She was so strong and showed real signs she would recover, but after three long days of around-the-clock care, pain relief, antibiotics and prayer, unfortunately the damage was just too much for her body and she passed,” says Mogo Wildlife Park director Chad Staples.

Now it’s up to zookeeper Chad to play mum, which requires feeding the yet-to-be-named cubs every two hours, even throughout the night.

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“It’s more than a full-time job,” says Chad. “However, they’re an absolute blessing and I’m loving every moment.”

Zuri was born at Mogo Wildlife Park and her mother, father and sister are still at the zoo.

Chad says she had a huge personality and was a beautiful lioness. He and Zuri had formed a strong bond during her pregnancy.

“We’d gone through the process of pairing her up with a male and doing ultrasounds during the pregnancy, to then having the absolute joy of the birth taking place,” he says. “It’s just so cruel it took this turn.”

However, there was nothing Chad or his team could have done to prevent it.

“Unfortunately, if this had happened in the wild, she wouldn’t have even lasted as long because there would have been no possibility of intervention,” he says. “We’ll never know why or what happened internally; it’s just the complications of pregnancy. The one real positive is that two cubs were born well.”

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The cubs won’t be able to be reared by another lioness, especially since being handled by humans. However, when they’re older, Chad will find them a suitable male and they’ll be able to start their own pride.

Chad says he’ll be a protective parent because it’s really important the cubs survive.

“Lions are a huge icon for the world,” he says. “They’re one of those species that fascinate and amaze everyone. They’re also a species that’s dwindling in the wild so every individual is crucial and every birth is a huge thing.”

For now, the cubs are in Chad’s capable care and will carry on Zuri’s legacy at Mogo Wildlife Park. Visitors can also look forward to seeing the cubs out and about when they’re older.

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Shirley Eglitis6:55 pm 15 Jan 21

Reading this is so upsetting knowing that Zuri died so tragically. I can’t imagine the grief your zoo keepers go through when animals you love and care for, pass on. Thankfully you are able to take care now of her two little girls that survived. I can’t wait to see them when they are a little bit older.

Heart breaking.

Very glad she had a person she was close to at the end. Four cubs seems like a lot for a first, maybe that’s why. Here’s hoping foster “mum” Chad gets the support he needs too. It’s never easy to lose an animal you’ve cared for, and with being up all hours, he’s going to be a wreck.

Ann-Marie Cordner5:23 pm 24 Dec 20

So sad for Zuri and also for losing two of her cubs. But so pleased you are able to look out for the other 2 until they are old enough to be placed back into a pride. Thank you so much for caring so much. These animals are so beautiful it is always hard to lose them when you have been looking out for them for such a while. Thank you again.

Tammy Jo Bullock4:12 pm 24 Dec 20

How sad that she died but she left behind two cubs that will be her legacy

marque Ann Dunham2:00 pm 24 Dec 20

This is so devastating to hear. How hard this must be for the staff and other lions to mourn her loss.

Jerrie Carpenter1:53 pm 24 Dec 20

I am thankful for Chad to take care of the babies.

Thankful for Chad.

Benedicta Radic9:22 am 24 Dec 20

Mixed thoughts and emotions. Perhaps it is what it is and these things happen. You do more than just ‘care’ and that’s so important.

Catherine D Sarginson9:19 am 24 Dec 20

This breaks my heart. People think that nowadays giving birth whether human or animal is perfectly safe. It is not. It is extremely dangerous for both the mother and the child. I nearly lost my best friend when she gave birth. Her first and only child as she had to have a complete hysterectomy to save her life. She never got over either emotionally or physically. To lose a healthy young animal like this and also a cub is just such a tragedy in a world where we are losing so many species. I want to cry.


I am so sad for you all. Please continue the good work you do! God bless…

Gloria Myers6:14 am 24 Dec 20

I’m so so sorry this happen. What a beautiful momma she was. I know the Zoo keeper will keep the babies safe and take the best care of them. This is just so sad.😢 I love animals and I hate it when this happens to them especially so young. 😢😢😢

Merry Christmas to Chad and rest of Zoo keepers. Love and hugs to them sweet babies.💖

Stacie m Bennett4:27 am 24 Dec 20

the headline says the cubs died, but the story says they lived?

The two in the photo were born alive and well, and survived. One was stillborn, and a fourth one had to be taken surgically, but was already dead. The two survivors will hopefully grow and continue their mother’s legacy.

Patricia J Burgoyne3:23 pm 24 Dec 20

one was stillborn and one died before being born….2 were born healthy

There were four cubs, two were born okay, one was stillborn and one was still in the birthing canal and was dead when they operated on her.

I believe they mean there were four total; two died, and two lived.

There were 4 cubs, 2 lived and 2 died. So sad!!

The actual story says “she birthed two cubs, one was born deceased, and one was unable to be birthed” and they had to take it out and then she suffered complications. The two remaining cubs are being hand raised.

Two of the four died.

The article states 2 cubs died and 2 cubs lived.

Judy Bennett12:45 pm 25 Dec 20

She had 4 cubs. Two lived, the last two they tried to save by cesarean died.

2 died 2 survived

Brittany Merrill6:52 pm 25 Dec 20

She had 4, two lived, one was still born, and one was stuck, causing all the internal damage.

Angela Milne2:53 am 24 Dec 20

I am so sorry for the loss of this beautiful mama. Her baby’s are absolutely stunning. God bless you for taking care of them. They’ll carry on for their mammy. Again I am so sorry for the loss of zuri. God bless. May these baby’s grow and follow their mommy’s footsteps.

Claudia Crosier2:27 am 24 Dec 20

Won’t another male kill the cubs?

So sorry for the lost of Zuri and may her legacy carry on with her surviving cubs.😢

Most unfortunate that the poor Mum died, I am sure she had the best of care, but Mother Nature has her way of sorting things out. Her cubs will go on to grow up and strong and healthy and have their own babies to keep the family line going.. Bless them all.

Denise A Phillips12:26 pm 23 Dec 20

She was too old to be bred for the fist time. Maybe they should be partners with the San Diego Zoo.

Diane Palmer11:43 am 23 Dec 20

My opinion is that whoever wrote this article was an idiot to never state just where the Mogo Wildlife Park is!

Its in the name of the Park.

Barbara Eglitis5:32 pm 25 Feb 21

Diane Palmer – what a a nasty thing to say. The story is about the loss of a lioness and her two babies. If you don’t know where Mogo is – LOOK IT UP!

Thomas K Gorham10:59 am 23 Dec 20

All life strives to survive. To all, an end must come. Rest in Peace little girl and babies.

Robyn Wilson8:49 pm 22 Dec 20

So sad – but Chad – you have got this !!!!

So sad to live through the fires and then this tragedy.

Catherine Tetley7:37 pm 22 Dec 20

Very very sad news!! All the best Chad with the raring of the little wonders.
Would love to see them when they are running along behind you through the zoo.🌈

Maureen Wilson4:23 pm 22 Dec 20

Sad, but amazing effort to keep the remaining cubs alive.

Vicki Stebbins9:55 am 22 Dec 20

This is very sad, sadder still is the attitude if the species is fascinating to humans they’re worth more. Every species is important they all play a role and it’s ignorant not to see this. Poor Zuri and her cubs.

I think it’s important to take in the whole paragraph. I don’t think that because he says that it is a popular species for animal lovers, that it means other animals are not important. When I studied environmental science, it was taught that some more familiar species can indirectly protect other species and help to educate people of the greater plight to protect all our animals. Lions are a keystone species, so their existence does have a greater impact on ecosystems. The man is grieving and is now parenting the cubs, he must be exhausted, be empathetic and try not take his message out of context.

I understand what you’re saying, but I think that iconic species are “more worth” not because we like them, but because with their beauty they are really awsome, impressive, and can attract public attention on frailty of nature – and on all those species less impressive, but equally deserving respect and love. Lions, pandas, dolphins are like… ambassadors.

Kathryn Bourgault5:13 pm 23 Dec 20

I don’t think the attitude is that lions are the only species that is fascinating to humans. Many, many species are becoming sparse in the wild, and zoos and wildlife parks are striving to help sustain them. Humans love animals, and are wanting to help keep the wild life from becoming extinct. So very tragic that Zuri and two of her cubs died, but wonderful that two are living and healthy.

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