X

Lion to undergo medical exam at Franklin Park Zoo

UPDATE, 3/19/15:
As we shared in January, Christopher the lion is being closely monitored and treated for several irreversible, age-related issues. Recently, his health has begun to decline further and due to this he will no longer be seen on exhibit. At age 21, Christopher is among the oldest lions within the North American captive population in facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The median life expectancy for lions is 16.8 years. The veterinary and animal care staff take extraordinary care of our geriatric animals, as they do with all of the animals in our collection, to ensure that they enjoy a comfortable life as they continue to age, which is often far longer than the median life expectancy. Great care is being taken to ensure that Christopher is comfortable and has access to plenty of enrichment and stimulation.

 

Lionchristopher

Zoo New England’s Franklin Park Zoo announced today that Christopher the lion will undergo a medical examination, which will require the use of anesthesia, on Thursday, January 15.

Christopher, age 21, is a geriatric animal with a number of ongoing age-related issues, which the staff continually monitors, manages and treats. He is at a stage in his care and management where in order to know more, a full physical examination including X-rays and ultrasounds, is needed.

“Any animal immobilization involving general anesthesia, particularly for a larger geriatric animal, always carries risk. We never enter into these procedures lightly and every possible effort is made to keep the animal, as well as the people involved in the procedure, safe and healthy,” said Dr. Eric Baitchman, Zoo New England Director of Veterinary Services. “With our older animals, we do everything we can to ensure they enjoy a comfortable life as they continue to age, which is often far longer than the median life expectancy.”

The median life expectancy for lions is 16.8 years. Christopher, who turned 21 on July 22, 2014, is among the oldest lions within the North American population in facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Thanks to the regular training program at the Zoo, the zookeepers are able to routinely obtain blood samples from Christopher without requiring the use of anesthesia. In doing so, the veterinary and animal management teams have been able to better keep tabs on Christopher’s health and treat him accordingly.

Training through positive reinforcement and operant conditioning allows the animals to voluntarily participate in activities that challenge them to think and learn new things. The animals are trained not only in husbandry behaviors that assist the zookeepers in daily care, but also in medical behaviors to help the hospital staff with veterinary care.

“Christopher is one of the most beloved animals at Franklin Park Zoo, both by staff and by the many visitors who have come to see him throughout the years,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO. “Despite the inherent risks with the examination given Christopher’s advanced age, it is necessary to offer a full picture of his health.”

Christopher has lived at Franklin Park Zoo since 2001 after arriving from Lion Country Safari in Florida.