Topeka Zoo’s lioness made famous by pseudo-mane passes away at 19

At 19 years old, the Topeka Zoo’s lioness Zuri, famous for her pseudo-mane, has passed away.
Published: May. 4, 2023 at 11:09 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - At 19 years old, the Topeka Zoo’s lioness Zuri, famous for her pseudo-mane, has passed away.

The Topeka Zoo announced on Thursday, May 4, that the beloved geriatric lioness, Zuri, has died. She had surpassed the median life expectancy for African lions, which is 16.9 years.

Zoo officials explained that over the last two years, Zuri has undergone treatments for kidney disease, which is common in geriatric lions. It wasn’t until April that Zuri’s symptoms increased, which included a decline in her appetite.

On Tuesday, May 2, the Zoo said Zuri completely refused to eat. By Wednesday, May 3, a veterinary exam discovered that Zuri was suffering from renal failure. Based on the exam’s findings, the Zoo made the decision to euthanize Zuri.

“Zuri was truly a lioness in charge, and her strong and independent personality was evident to all who knew her,” says Shanna Simpson, Animal Curator. “She was always fierce, yet had an amazing relationship with our animal care staff. Zuri has always been a star in our hearts and we will miss her tremendously.”

According to officials, Zuri, who had sprouted a mane in 2021 after the passing of the pride’s male lion, Avus, and her sister Asante were born in April 2004 at the Fort Worth Zoo. The pair arrived in the Capital City in 2005.

Due to Zuri’s pseudo-mane, the Zoo noted her unique appearance was featured in publications around the globe, to include NPR.

“Asante is facing her own age-related challenges,” continued Simpson. “Especially because of the bond she shared with her sister, we will be extra attentive to Asante’s needs for the foreseeable future.”

With Zuri’s passing, the Zoo is reminded of the importance of conservation efforts. Lions are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Zoo remains committed to sustainability efforts.

Officials also noted that Zuri’s passing followed the arrival of 4-year-old Tatu. The April 23 arrival of the male lion marked a time of growth for the zoo.

“We are responsible for the well-being of the animals in our care through the entirety of their lifespan”, said CEO Brendan Wiley. “The addition of Tatu was a step to establish our next pride, knowing that our time with both Zuri and Asante would be limited. While we are saddened by losing Zuri, we know she made an incredible impact on our staff and guests during her time here.”

The Zoo thanked the veterinary team and staff members for their dedicated care to her wellbeing. Her passing is a great loss to the community and her memory will be cherished.