Female lion at Alabama zoo dies during introduction to new male

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Officials with the Birmingham Zoo confirmed via social media on Tuesday that the facility’s female lion, Akili, was killed during an introduction to a new male lion.

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News of the fatal Monday afternoon encounter was shared on the zoo’s official Facebook page.

According to the post, Akili, an African lioness, was born in 2005 at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but was relocated to the Birmingham facility two years later to live with African lion Kwanza. The majestic couple shared five cubs, but Kwanza died last year, prompting zoo officials to partner with the Lion Species Survival Plan to identify a new male companion for Akili.

The lengthy introduction process between Akili and Josh began in April.

“Animal introductions are always risky because wild animals can be unpredictable and we cannot control their interactions,” Hollie Colahan, Birmingham Zoo’s deputy director and coordinator of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Lion Species Survival Plan, stated in the post.

“Unfortunately, Akili sustained serious injuries within the first few minutes of the (Monday) meeting, and despite immediate intervention by the Animal Care and Animal Health teams, she succumbed to her injuries and died Monday afternoon,” she added.

According to, Akili’s cubs left Birmingham at the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2012. The two males, Baron and Vulcan, were relocated to Montgomery Zoo, also in Alabama. The three females – Asha, Kimba and Lily – were sent to African Safari in Puebla, Mexico, the news outlet reported.

“The loss of an animal is always sad but when it is sudden and unexpected, that makes it particularly difficult,” Birmingham Zoo President and CEO Chris Pfefferkorn stated in the Facebook post.

“Please keep the amazing team and everyone that worked with Akili in your thoughts as there are no words that can ease the pain of such a spontaneous loss. We are thankful that so many in the community had a chance to see and experience Akili. She was a great ambassador for her wild counterparts,” she added.