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Zoo euthanizes one of country's oldest male lions

A Pennsylvania zoo has euthanized one of the five oldest male lions in the United States due to age-related ailments, a zoo spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
Image: Juma the lion
Juma loved scents and his favorites were all spice and peppermint, officials at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium said on its website. "Keepers would sprinkle the scents on his straw. He would roll around and lay on it for hours."Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
/ Source: Reuters

A Pennsylvania zoo has euthanized one of the five oldest male lions in the United States due to age-related ailments, a zoo spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old African lion, Juma, arrived at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium in 1990, when he was just a year old, according to a statement on the zoo's website.

Juma had been confiscated from a private breeder in Ohio after local farmers complained to the sheriff's office about him escaping from his enclosure and eating poultry, the statement said.

During the past year, the lion had been suffering and stopped eating a week before he was euthanized.

"He had a lot of age-related illnesses and also feline dementia, which is not uncommon since he was very old," said Tracy Gray, a zoo spokeswoman.

Dr. Stephanie James, the zoo's director of animal health, said the animal "would sometimes forget where he was and look around like he was lost."

Zoo keepers tried to encourage him to eat by giving him his favorite food, ground turkey, but he consumed only a few ounces of his usual seven pounds, she said.

Shiba, a female lion who was Juma's companion, spent hours grooming and stayed close to him before he died, Kathy Suthard, lead carnivore keeper, said in a statement.

"In the wild, the male lions are the leaders of the pride, or family group," the zoo said on itse website. "Even though Shiba was the stronger personality and, at first, would push Juma around, eventually she became submissive and let Juma be the leader.

"They were always together. They would curl up together at night on one of the sleeping platforms. 'When Juma’s arthritis prevented him from jumping up to the platform, Shiba would join him on the straw bed we made for him,' " Suthard said on the website. " 'As you watched them, they reminded you of an old married couple.' "