Indianapolis Zoo staff are grieving — and investigating — after a lioness suffocated and killed the lion who fathered her cubs.
Nyack, a 10-year-old male African lion, died Monday after he was attacked by Zuri, a female lion with whom Nyack had three cubs just three years ago, zoo officials wrote in a Facebook post Friday. The zoo called Nyack a “magnificent lion” and said “he will be greatly missed.”
“We will conduct a thorough review to attempt to understand what may have led to this,” zoo officials said. “Zuri and the other three lions are all ok.”
Zookeepers noticed “an unusual amount of roaring” in the animals’ enclosure on Monday morning, so they went to investigate and found Zuri roughing up Nyack in front of their daughter, Sukari, the zoo said in a news release
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Despite attempts to stop the aggression, Zuri held onto Nyack’s neck till he was no longer moving, zoo staff said.
The attack happened before the zoo had opened to the public, the zoo said.
“We don’t know what the precursor to the fight was,” zoo curator David Hagen said, according to WIBC. “They had been together for eight years and during that time that had done really well together.”
Now the zoo staff are coping with Nyack’s death.
“The staff is devastated by the loss,” Hagen said, according to WIBC. “He was a friendly, playful lion.”
Nyack’s body will be cremated following his necropsy, WBIC reports.
Veterinary staff said the necropsy determined the cause of death was suffocation as a result of Nyack’s neck injuries.
Zoo officials said the lions had been living together for eight years before the incident and that “detailed daily logs maintained by the animal care staff did not report any unusual aggression, injuries or wounds between Zuri and Nyack prior to Monday’s incident.”
The San Diego Zoo had loaned Nyack to the Indianapolis Zoo as part of a program promoting species conservation.
“They were compatible with no outward indication that an event like this would occur,” the zoo said in its news release.