The Philadelphia Zoo announced today that Merlin, a 21-year-old male African lion, was euthanized on Sunday due to the recent decline in his medical condition. Zoo veterinarians confirmed that respiratory insufficiency secondary to pulmonary edema led to the euthanasia decision. At 21, Merlin exceeded the typical lifespan for his species.
Merlin was born at the Johannesburg Zoo in South Africa in July 1991 and arrived in Philadelphia in July 1993 along with female lions Zenda, Jezebel and Vinkel. The pride relocated temporarily to the Columbus Zoo in 2004, and then returned for the opening of First Niagara Big Cat Falls in 2006.
During his many years in Philadelphia, Merlin remained one of the Zoo’s most popular animals, often delighting visitors with his healthy roar. During his lifetime, Merlin fathered 11 cubs.
“We are very sad for his loss—Merlin has left quite a legacy,” says Tammy Schmidt, Curator of Carnivores and Ungulates. “Merlin received great care, feeding and veterinary attention during a long and healthy life here. He was one of the founding residents of First Niagara Big Cat Falls and took great advantage of the opportunity to explore all the connected indoor and outdoor areas.”
The Philadelphia Zoo is home to five other African lions. The three females who arrived and lived with Merlin are all elderly themselves now, at over 21 years of age. A typical lion lifespan is approximately 17 years. New lions Makini, a three- year old male, and two-year-old female Tajiri, arrived a little more than a year ago. Tajiri has been under treatment for blastomycosis, a fungal infection she likely contracted before she arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo.