The Birmingham Zoo’s African lioness, Akili, dies following introduction to new lion

A zoo in Alabama announced the passing of Akili, an African lioness. (Source: Birmingham Zoo)
Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 9:40 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2022 at 12:53 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Birmingham Zoo leaders announced the passing of beloved African lioness Akili Tuesday morning.

The lion was fatally injured on Monday afternoon, July 18, 2022, during introductions to a male lion, Josh.

The zoo said, “The staff is devastated at this unexpected loss of a long-time favorite animal and member of the Zoo family.”

Akili was born in 2005 at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Akili came to The Birmingham Zoo in 2007 to live with African Lion Kwanza, and in 2011 they had five cubs. When Kwanza died in 2021 zoo leaders worked with the Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP) to identify a new male companion for Akili. Josh arrived in April.

African lioness Akili
African lioness Akili(Scott K., Zoological Manager of Predators/The Birmingham Zoo)

“Animal introductions are always risky because wild animals can be unpredictable and we cannot control their interactions,” explains Hollie Colahan, Birmingham Zoo’s Deputy Director and coordinator of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Lion SSP. “Unfortunately, Akili sustained serious injuries within the first few minutes of the meeting and despite immediate intervention by the Animal Care and Animal Health teams, she succumbed to her injuries and died Monday afternoon.”

“The loss of an animal is always sad but when it is sudden and unexpected, that makes it particularly difficult,” said Chris Pfefferkorn, Birmingham Zoo President, and CEO. “Please keep the amazing team and everyone that worked with Akili in your thoughts as there are no words that can ease the pain of such a spontaneous loss. We are thankful that so many in the community had a chance to see and experience Akili, she was a great ambassador for her wild counterparts.”

WBRC asked the Zoo what the next steps are for Josh. “Josh will stay at the Birmingham Zoo and we are committed to providing him with the same great care as always. When the timing is right, we will work with the Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP) to determine next steps. The goal is to get him an appropriate social setting for his well being.”

African lioness Akili
African lioness Akili(Scott K., Zoological Manager of Predators/The Birmingham Zoo)

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