Mufasa, Como Park Zoo’s 17-year-old African lion, was euthanized Tuesday after suffering three weeks with a blood disorder.
One of the Como Zoo’s most-photographed animals and known for his mellow disposition, Mufasa was a great animal ambassador, according to zoo staffers. The decision to put him down came after exhaustive discussions among zoo officials and experts with the University of Minnesota.
“The staff is really torn up about this,” said Matt Reinartz, the zoo’s public relations manager. “We are heartbroken to say goodbye to Mufasa.”
The average life of a male lion is 16.8 years. Mufasa’s mother, Wynona, who lived at the zoo for 22 years, died in 2015. At the time of her death, she was the second-oldest female lion in captivity in North America.
Wynona was six months old when she arrived at Como Zoo in St. Paul. She gave birth to 12 kittens in her lifetime, one of them being Savannah, who still lives at the zoo. Como Friends Insider, a zoo publication, ran an article about Savannah that said she took after her mother — “very feisty and playful.”
A 2015 story in the Como Friends Insider described the first time Mufasa encountered a tiger at the zoo’s outdoor large cat habitat. He was so scared that he tripped over a log and broke his leg. Staffers joked that Mufasa “was one clumsy lion.”
Mufasa had been under a quality-of-life watch in the last three weeks because of his declining health and age, said Reinartz. He had thrombocytopenia, a medical condition characterized by low blood platelets and difficulty clotting.
The decision was made to humanely euthanize Mufasa when he no longer responded to treatments, Reinartz said.
“These decisions are never easy,” he said. “Mufasa got tremendous, tremendous care during the last stages of his life. The University of Minnesota is top notch.”
Zoo officials will try to find one or maybe two replacement lions. They will work with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which has special survival plans to get new animals to zoos.
The death of any animal is tough on zoo staff, said Reinartz. The zookeeper who fed Mufasa milk in a bottle as a cub is still on staff, he said.
“It’s not just rough for staff, but for visitors and Savannah,” he said.
Mufasa’s easygoing personality was nurtured by being hand-raised, he said. And he was such a good-looking cat, Reinartz added.
“He just looked like he wanted to be petted,” he said.