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Lioness and two cubs die at Mogo Wildlife Park

Hannah Sparks22 December 2020
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.

What's Your Opinion?

42 Responses to Lioness and two cubs die at Mogo Wildlife Park

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Vicki Stebbins Vicki Stebbins 9:55 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.

    Catherine Catherine 10:57 pm 22 Dec 20

    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.

    Isabella Isabella 4:58 pm 23 Dec 20

    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 Bourgault Kathryn Bourgault 5:13 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.

Maureen Wilson Maureen Wilson 4:23 pm 22 Dec 20

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

Catherine Tetley Catherine Tetley 7:37 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.🌈

Sandra Sandra 8:22 pm 22 Dec 20

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

Robyn Wilson Robyn Wilson 8:49 pm 22 Dec 20

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

Thomas K Gorham Thomas K Gorham 10:59 am 23 Dec 20

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

Diane Palmer Diane Palmer 11:43 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!

    Wrigbe Wrigbe 12:12 pm 25 Dec 20

    Its in the name of the Park.

    Barbara Eglitis Barbara Eglitis 5:32 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!

Denise A Phillips Denise A Phillips 12:26 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.

joan joan 1:10 pm 23 Dec 20

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.

Mary Mary 9:27 pm 23 Dec 20

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

Claudia Crosier Claudia Crosier 2:27 am 24 Dec 20

Won’t another male kill the cubs?

Angela Milne Angela Milne 2:53 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.

Stacie m Bennett Stacie m Bennett 4:27 am 24 Dec 20

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

    JustDonna JustDonna 2:16 pm 24 Dec 20

    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 Burgoyne Patricia J Burgoyne 3:23 pm 24 Dec 20

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

    Wanda Wanda 3:28 pm 24 Dec 20

    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.

    Lisa James Lisa James 4:33 pm 24 Dec 20

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

    Wendy Wendy 5:15 pm 24 Dec 20

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

    Chris Chris 6:48 pm 24 Dec 20

    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.

    Shirley Shirley 2:12 am 25 Dec 20

    Two of the four died.

    Amy Forde Amy Forde 6:32 am 25 Dec 20

    The article states 2 cubs died and 2 cubs lived.

    Judy Bennett Judy Bennett 12:45 pm 25 Dec 20

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

    Janeene Janeene 1:09 pm 25 Dec 20

    2 died 2 survived

    Brittany Merrill Brittany Merrill 6:52 pm 25 Dec 20

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

Gloria Myers Gloria Myers 6:14 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.💖

Susan Susan 6:22 am 24 Dec 20

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

FRED LITTLE FRED LITTLE 7:23 am 24 Dec 20

I AM A ANIMAL LOVER..I HAVE A SERVICE DOG. MY “WILL” IS MADE OUT TO DOG FOUNDATION.xxx

Catherine D Sarginson Catherine D Sarginson 9:19 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.

Benedicta Radic Benedicta Radic 9:22 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.

Jerrie Jerrie 1:50 pm 24 Dec 20

Thankful for Chad.

Jerrie Carpenter Jerrie Carpenter 1:53 pm 24 Dec 20

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

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