Cincinnati Zoo's African white lion passes away - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Cincinnati Zoo's African white lion passes away

Sunshine arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1998. (Provided photo from CZBG) Sunshine arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1998. (Provided photo from CZBG)

An elderly African white lion at the Cincinnati Zoo died last week while under anesthesia for a medical procedure, the zoo announced on Monday.

17-year-old Sunshine had been at the Cincinnati Zoo since 1998 as a permanent loan from Siegfried and Roy. The average life span for lions in North American zoos is 16.8 years, according to CZBG.

Zoo officials were preparing to move Sunshine into a space with two female lions after his brother, Future, passed away in December. As part of the process, Sunshine was undergoing a vasectomy.

“White lions are social animals, so the best option for Sunshine was to get him in with our two females. Quality of life for our animals is our number one priority,” said Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo Executive Director.

Sunshine passed away while recovering from the vasectomy.

“Procedures requiring anesthesia are more difficult with older animals,” said Dr. Mark Campbell, Cincinnati Zoo Director of Animal Health. “Sunshine's surgery went well but his age and weight (447 lbs) worked against him in recovery.”

Sunshine and his brother arrived at the zoo when they were 3 months old. They were born in Germany.

“What I remember was the boys only understood German so it was a fun first week for all of us,” said Dawn Strasser, Cincinnati Zoo Head Nursery Keeper who helped care for the cubs when they arrived in 1997.

“You ask for behaviors but I only spoke English and he only knew German so there was a lot of staring at each other. He was a favorite among the staff and the public. He will be deeply missed by many,” said Strasser.

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