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David Youldon

Press release from Lion Encounter Zambia

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By: Lion Encounter Zambia

Date: 4th October 2011

Subject: Euthanasia of two lions

All enquiries regarding this press release to be directed to


After discussion with, and following the advice of, our consultant vet, Lion Encounter Zambia has taken the very difficult decision to euthanize two of the lions owned by the organization at its base in Livingstone.


The two female lions in question are Ruma and Rufiji, both two years old. Dr Parsons has diagnosed these lions with a developmental joint disorder which is progressive and degenerative. The deformities and discomfort are plain to see and getting worse despite prolonged anti-inflammatory treatments. Once the cartilage is thinned or lost, the constant grinding of bones against each other causes pain and stiffness around the joint. Abnormal and excess bone formations called spurs grow from the damaged bones, causing further pain and stiffness. The damage is irreversible and destined to worsen over the coming months. It will not be long before these females would need permanent pain management and their quality of life highly questionable.


Lion Encounter Zambia, and our partners in the African Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program at Antelope Park and Lion Encounter in Zimbabwe, strive to provide the best welfare standards for all the lions in our care, ensuring that each lion has the same opportunities to advance through the program. However, we also know that not every lion is fit to proceed to a release and those individuals are provided sanctuary with the best care we can provide. On very rare occasions we have further determined that the quality of life for some individuals that cannot proceed in the Program is too low and have taken the extraordinary decision to euthanize them. Such decisions are taken with a heavy heart and after consultation and discussion with experts; always with the best interests of the animals in mind.




To supplement the information in this press release published here on behalf of Lion Encounter Zambia (LEZ); the two lions in question were part of a group of five cubs that LEZ were requested to take in and try and integrate within the release program. They came from an operation called Horseback Africa in South Africa, although the request came from a gentleman from the UK who supported Horseback Africa and provided the funding for the operation's purchase of some breeding lions, of which the five cubs that came to LEZ are some of the offspring.


ALERT has expressed concern over the purpose for which this particular operation is breeding lions as well as the welfare conditions of the lions at that operation.


When the five cubs arrived at LEZ concern was raised over their condition, with some obvious problems related to poor nutritional welfare at a young age, and possibly as a result of the nutritional condition of the mother during pregnancy. In discussion with vets it was deemed that there was a high likelihood that these lions could live a full life with the right care moving forward. As time went on all five cubs were flourishing and seemed in good health as attested through independent evaluation by vets and government authorities. However, more recently the underlying problems from their earliest days were being expressed more severely in two of these lions. Ongoing improved nutritional care and veterinary intervention was alleviating but not solving the issues. As such, LEZ took the decision as noted in their press release. Post mortem results confirmed the diagnosis as well as highlighted a number of other defects in these individuals. The remaining three lions will be given sanctuary but are not deemed suitable for release or breeding.


At the end of August Lion Encounter Zambia released six female lions into the Dambwa Forest release site, supported by government, local operators and communities. Chief Sekute was present and thanked LEZ for bringing employment to his community, for the support that has been provided to his people, but above all for bringing wildlife back to his chiefdom.


The pride has been doing incredibly well since their release; their story being available to read here. A male will be released into the site once research confirms that the pride is settled, bonded and fully self-sustaining. All signs are positive at this time.

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