The Birmingham Zoo announced the death of a lioness after she was introduced to a potential male companion on Monday.

Akili was injured by the male lion, Josh, shortly after the two were put together. The zoo said the introduction came after a slow and careful process.

“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 Species Survival Plan (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.”

Lion1
Photo by Scott K., Zoological Manager of Predators.

The zoo said Akili needed a new male companion after her longtime companion, Kwanza, died in 2021. Since the death of Kwanza, the zoo has worked with the Lion SSP to identify a new male for Akili.

Akili came to the zoo in 2007 from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Akili and Kwanza had five cubs together in 2011.

"The staff is devastated at this unexpected loss of a long-time favorite animal and member of the Zoo family," the zoo posted on Facebook.

Josh arrived at the Birmingham Zoo in April of this year. The zoo has not said how it will handle the loss of the lioness and the future of Josh the lion.

“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.”

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.  

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.