Elderly African lion Reilly, one of the oldest in the world, dies at 23: "Reilly was a one-of-a-kind soul"

Elderly African lion Reilly, one of the oldest in the world, dies at 23: "Reilly was a one-of-a-kind soul"

One of the oldest African lions in the world, who lived at the North Carolina Zoo, has died at 23 years of age.

The passing of Reilly, a 23-year-old African lion, has been confirmed by the North Carolina Zoo, reports WITN. Reilly, who has been at the North Carolina Zoo since March 23, 2001, was fighting renal illness for years, according to the zoo. He was previously a resident of the Lincoln Park Zoo, where he was born on February 7, 1999. He was the oldest male lion at a zoo or aquarium that was accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. He was transported to North Carolina from Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo when he was two years old. 



Due to Reilly's advanced age and impaired health, as well as his renal condition, the animal care staff and vets decided to euthanize him. “Renal disease is not uncommon for a cat of Reilly’s advanced age, be it a domestic cat sitting on your chair at home or a lion at the Zoo,” Dr. JB Minter, Animal Health director and chief veterinarian explained.

WITN reports that the typical lifespan of a lion in the wild is roughly 10-15 years, however male lions in human care have a median life expectancy of 17 years. This species' males may weigh up to 570 pounds. Male lions seldom live past the age of 12 in the wild, but it is not uncommon for them to live into their late teens in zoos. Reilly, at 23, was the oldest male lion at any Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited facility.

“He was so tolerant of his rambunctious offspring and was fiercely devoted to his lady lion, Mekita,” Beth Malott, zookeeper said to ABC11. Malott has been looking after Reilly for about eight years. “Reilly was a one-of-a-kind soul, and his morning roars will be greatly missed.”



"We were extremely fortunate to be able to monitor the progression of Reilly's renal disease over the years using operant conditioning to obtain blood from his tail, but unfortunately, the progression of the renal disease, combined with his previously diagnosed spinal disease, proved to be too much," North Carolina Zoo Animal Health Director and Chief Veterinarian Dr. JB Minter said.

Reilly weighed up to 440 pounds in his prime. He weighed 394 pounds at the time of his death. Reilly had three male and six female children. According to the North Carolina Zoo, Mekita is now the zoo's sole lion. The AZA's suggestions will be used to make decisions concerning future pride members, including potential partners for the lioness. 

The caretakers at his zoo will definitely miss him a lot, and given his devotion to Mekita, she will too.



Cover Image Source: YouTube/ABC11

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