Cheyenne Mountain Zoo mourns loss of 21-year-old African lion

Angie the African lion / Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Angie the African lion / Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Cheyenne Mountain Zoo) — Cheyenne Mountain Zoo celebrates the long life and immense impact of Angie, a 21-year-old female African lion.

Angie was the proud matriarch of the Zoo’s lion pride, and a favorite among longtime visitors, who watched her build a family with her majestic mate, Elson. Zoo veterinarians and animal staff made the humane decision to euthanize her, but memories of Angie will live on with the millions of people who met her throughout the years.

Angie was known for being a tough cat, a smart lion, a protective mother and a big fan of whipped cream. At the time of her passing, she was the second-oldest African lion at any Associations of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institution. At 21 years old, Angie surpassed the median life expectancy of a captive lion by more than four years, and outlived most of her wild counterparts by seven years.

Angie and her mate, Elson, were matched as part of an SSP breeding recommendation that was designed to keep genetic lines of African lions in human care pure. Their union resulted in 18 lion cubs, 13 of which were born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Elson passed away in 2011, but the legacy of Angie and Elson lives on in their 105 living decedents – cubs, grand cubs and great-grand cubs.

Elson and Angie / Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Elson and Angie / Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Females from Angie and Elson’s final litter, Zwena and Lomela, still reside at the Zoo. Lomela is the mother of the three cubs born at the Zoo last June – Elsa, Boma and Aslan.

“Angie was a wonderful mother,” Dina Bredahl, Animal Care Manager, said. “She was caring, protective and very bonded to her offspring. I see those same traits in her daughter Lomela, as Lomela cares for her cubs. It’s a wonderful testament to the lion that Angie was. As we watch Lomela’s cubs grow, we’ll be able to watch Angie’s legacy live on at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.”

Bredahl worked with Angie since she arrived at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo 16 years ago, and became her primary trainer in 2009. It was clear the two had a respect for one another.

“From day one, she made it known that she was a really tough and very fierce cat,” Bredahl said. “Her personality made gaining her trust throughout the years even more rewarding.”

Bredahl also described Angie as a lion with above-average intelligence. Angie had one-on-one husbandry and natural behavior training with her keepers every day. As she aged, she disproved the myth that you can’t teach older animals new behaviors. Even in her final years, she learned new husbandry behaviors that helped the Zoo give her the very best geriatric care.

“Angie participated in a number of husbandry training behaviors that were very beneficial for us to monitor her health,” Bredahl said. “She seemed to really enjoy training and always had an appetite for training treats – especially whipped cream. Because she was an eager learner, we were able to train her to allow us to draw blood from her tail, which helped us watch for common ailments in older felines, like kidney disease, and weigh her regularly. She helped us keep a close eye on her as she aged.”

While it is always a difficult decision to let an animal member of the Zoo’s family go, Angie’s impact will live on through our guests’ love of African lions. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is home to six lions – Abuto (4), Zwena (8), Lomela (8) and 8-month-old cubs, Boma, Aslan and Elsa.

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