An African lion named Tomo at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium was humanely euthanized on Wednesday morning after his quality of life had diminished rapidly.
At 15 years old, Tomo had been receiving close medical attention to treat age-related issues, according to the Columbus Zoo.
Tomo came to the Columbus Zoo in May 2006 from the San Diego Zoo as part of a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) African Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP).
Since his arrival in Central Ohio, Tomo fathered three litters, including the most recent two litters that totaled six surviving cubs born in 2015. Tomo was also a grandfather of 11 and great-grandfather of five, according to zoo officials.
Tomo was a beloved member of the Columbus Zoo family and made international news last March when he was one of the Zoo’s first patients —and first large cat — to receive a CAT scan in the Zoo’s new computerized tomography scanner, according to zoo officials.
The Columbus Zoo is one of only about 10 zoological facilities in the U.S. with this technology on site. The procedure helped Zoo vets to diagnose and treat a localized gum infection Tomo had developed, zoo official said.
Tomo had also been weekly receiving therapeutic laser treatment for his hip arthritis over the last year with excellent results. Therapeutic lasers are applied to tissue and encourage blood flow and healing and decreases inflammation. Laser therapy can also be applied to help heal wounds, surgery sites, sore joints, sore muscles, infections and treat arthritis, as in Tomo’s case.
“It is always incredibly difficult to lose such a special member of our Zoo family, especially one who has been in our care for so long like Tomo. I am proud of our dedicated animal care and animal health teams, who continue to think out of the box to provide exceptional, expert care to the animals and serve as innovative leaders in veterinary medicine. Tomo, too, taught us a great deal in effective treatment options and was a wonderful, majestic ambassador for his species. He was a favorite among Zoo staff, as well as Zoo guests, and will be greatly missed,” said Columbus Zoo President and CEO Tom Stalf.
African lions (panthera leo) were once common throughout Africa, but their populations have decreased dramatically over the last two decades.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, lions are listed as a vulnerable species.
Lion populations are decreasing due to a number of threats in their native ranges, including habitat loss, indiscriminate killing, loss of prey base and medicinal use.
Within the last five years alone, the Columbus Zoo has provided approximately $130,000 in support of African lion conservation projects working in lions’ native ranges to promote the co-existence of people and wildlife such as helping farmers fence their kraals to prevent lions from invading their livestock; increasing anti-snaring patrols, aerial surveillance, and veterinary interventions; and more, zoo official said.