Oldest African lion at Oregon Zoo dies

The oldest lion in the Oregon Zoo’s African pride died Friday night at age 16, the zoo announced.
Published: Sep. 30, 2023 at 10:30 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - The oldest lion in the Oregon Zoo’s African pride died Friday night, the zoo announced.

Neka was 16 years old when she died following a seizure.

At her age, Neka was considered geriatric for her species, and few female lions live past the age of 16 in the wild.

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She was born at the Virginia Zoo in 2007 and came to Portland in 2009.

Kelly Gomez who worked with Neka at the Oregon Zoo said the lion’s death was heartbreaking, especially for her care staff.

“Some of our keepers had known Neka for 14 years, since she first arrived at the zoo. When you care for an animal every day like that, for years, you form incredibly close bonds,” Gomez said. “She was a beloved and beautiful lion, and it will not be the same without her.”

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In 2013, Neka gave birth to a trio of cubs who are now grown and living at other zoos as a part of the Species Survival Plan For African Lions initiative, a program working to develop and maintain a sustainable, genetically diverse lion population at facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

According to Gomez, fewer than 25,000 wild lions are believed to remain in East Africa.

“Neka touched the hearts of millions of people during her life, and we hope her legacy will be one of inspiration and hope for her species,” Gomez said.