Zuri, the 4-week-old African lion cub. (Photo: Amy Smotherman Burgess/Zoo Knoxville)
Zoo Knoxville is mourning the loss of an African lion cub just weeks after announcing its birth.
The 4-week-old cub — named Zuri, meaning “beautiful” in Swahili — died last week after an accident. The cub’s mother, Amara, was recovering from a medical procedure to treat acute renal deficiency, according to the zoo. The mother lion was sedated for the procedure, and “sadly, while coming out of anesthesia, Amara inadvertently injured her cub,” the zoo wrote with a video sharing the news of Zuri’s death.
“Despite immediate intervention by the veterinary team, the cub succumbed to her injuries,” the non-profit Tennessee zoo said in a press release sent to HuffPost.
It is unclear what kind of fatal injury was inflicted on Zuri or why she was with her mother when the lion was coming out of a sedated state. A zoo spokesperson was unable to provide further detail on the injury.
Lisa New, Zoo Knoxville’s president and CEO, called the accident a “devastating and heartbreaking loss.”
“Life can be fragile and fleeting, and while this is a reality of our profession, it doesn’t make us immune from the pain of losing an animal. We are grateful for the sympathy and support of our community and colleagues,” New said in the press release.
Zoo Knoxville said Amara is being “closely monitored for signs of distress or grief” while continuing to receive treatment for her ongoing kidney issues. She is currently “resting comfortably with no noticeable signs of agitation.” If she remains stable, she will be reunited with her mate, Upepo, the zoo said.
Zuri letting out a roar. (Photo: Amy Smotherman Burgess/Zoo Knoxville)
Zuri was Amara’s third offspring with Upepo, after 6-month-olds Maji and Anga, according to a July 5 Facebook post by Zoo Knoxville announcing Zuri’s birth, which took place June 16. At the time, the zoo said the newborn was “healthy and thriving” but that “Amara experienced complications with the delivery.”
The zoo added that Amara showed signs of labor after the cub was born. Zookeepers performed an ultrasound on the lioness and discovered she had a stillborn cub stuck in her birth canal, and performed emergency surgery on her.
Although the surgery was successful, Amara had a slow recovery, “and further tests diagnosed acute renal insufficiency,” for which she was being treated with medication.
“Amara and Upepo’s cubs are extremely important to the population of lions in the care of zoos accredited by The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, who work collaboratively as part of the African Lion SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) Program to ensure a future for the species,” the zoo’s July 5 Facebook post reads.
Although Zoo Knoxville describes African lions as “endangered” on Facebook, the World Wildlife Fund lists them as “vulnerable,” with about 23,000 left in the wild. The site also notes that “three-quarters of their populations are in decline.”
The main threats to African lions are human-wildlife conflict and natural prey decline, as well as habitat loss, climate change and wildlife trade, according to WWF.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.