A zoo lion has been euthanised after showing “weakness”.
The Asiatic lion, named Lucifer, was put to sleep at Paignton Zoo at the age of 17.
According to the Animal Spot website, male Asiatic lions are expected to live until 16, and zoo spokesman Phil Knowling said in a statement on Thursday afternoon: “He was a good age for an Asiatic lion. He was, like a lot of us, showing signs of wear and tear on his body.
“He had some weakness and ataxia – that’s wobbliness in his hind limbs – he would stagger occasionally, especially when going up and down steps, and often stumble.”
He was born at Cotswold Wildlife Park in 2002 and had been at the Devon zoo since 2014.
After a series of tests, experts decided to put him down as “you can’t stop the march of time”.
The zoo’s senior mammal keeper, Helen Neighbour, who worked with Lucifer, said: “He was a lovely male lion in that he was grumpy and bad-tempered, but not too much. He always liked to have the last word.
“He was a great dad [fathering two cubs] and a lovely animal to work with. He was smart enough to train, so we could vaccinate him easily. Us keepers will miss him terribly.”
Paignton said there are just 500 Asiatic lions in the wild, with another 500 in zoos. Paignton is part of a breeding programme to save the species.
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Lucifer’s two cubs, a male and female, are the only lions left at the zoo and leaders are now in talks with the European Endangered Species Programme about what will happen next to them.
In September last year, Paignton put down a zebra amid outrage after an image was posted online of its deformed hooves.