Endangered Lion Cub Dies Weeks After Her Birth at Tennessee Zoo: 'Heartbreaking Loss'

·2 min read
african lion cub
african lion cub

Zoo Knoxville/Facebook Zuri following her birth on June 16

A month after celebrating the birth of an endangered African lion cub, Zoo Knoxville is mourning the loss of the baby animal.

According to a release from Zoo Knoxville, the female cub's mother, Amara, fatally injured the 4-week-old lion on July 14 following a medical procedure to help treat the lioness' acute renal deficiency.

The Tennessee zoo shared that it has sedated Amara several times since the birth of her cub so that the adult animal could receive treatment for her medical issue. Following the previous sedations, Amara awoke from anesthesia and continued to be a protective mother to her newborn. Unfortunately, after her July 14 procedure, Amara injured her cub while coming out of anesthesia.

Veterinarians at the zoo immediately responded to the cub's injuries but could not save the baby animal.

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"This is a devastating and heartbreaking loss. It was the request of her keepers that she be named 'Zuri,' which is Swahili for 'beautiful,' and that is how we will remember her. 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," Lisa New, Zoo Knoxville's president and CEO, said in a statement on the cub's death provided to PEOPLE.

In its release, Zoo Knoxville added that it is monitoring Amara for signs of distress and grief and that the lioness is continuing treatment for her kidney issues.

african lion cub
african lion cub

Zoo Knoxville/Facebook

Amara gave birth to her late cub on June 16, according to a July Facebook post from Zoo Knoxville. The cub was Amara's third offspring with her mate Upepo.

At the time, the zoo said the newborn was "healthy and thriving" but that "Amara experienced complications with the delivery."

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The Tennessee facility 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.

"Veterinarians from UTCVM-University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine quickly performed emergency surgery. Although the surgery was successful, Amara was slow to rebound afterward, and further tests diagnosed acute renal insufficiency," Zoo Knoxville wrote on social media.

"Amara is currently being treated with medication and showing improvement. Her care team is cautiously optimistic that they can continue to manage the condition with oral medications, fluid therapy, and voluntary care," the facility added at the time.

Zoo Knoxville is home to three African lions male Upepo and females Zarina and Amara.