LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Lionel, one of two lions at the Los Angeles Zoo for years, has died at the advanced age of 23, well beyond the life expectancy of lions in the wild and old even by comparison with some counterparts in captivity.
Long a popular attraction at the zoo, Lionel was euthanized on Saturday after keepers at the zoo determined that worsening health problems had badly diminished his quality of life, the zoo said in a statement on Tuesday.
The male lion had been under close veterinary care for months due to neurological and urinary problems, the zoo said.
While not the oldest lion in captivity, Lionel was considered to be quite long-lived by natural standards.
"In the wild, a male lion would be competing against younger males to defend its territory, so in the wild it wouldn't last 23 years," zoo spokesman Jason Jacobs said.
Lionel's death leaves the L.A. Zoo with a single lion on display named Cookie, a 22-year-old female who arrived at the zoo with Lionel in 1997.
The two were close companions, though they never produced a cub, and were given to the zoo by the Wildlife Waystation, a private, nonprofit sanctuary for homeless and injured animals located in the Angeles National Forest near Los Angeles.
Jacob said zookeepers would keep an especially close watch on Cookie for the time being.
Both lions, born in captivity, came to California from an Oklahoma reserve that closed, Wildlife Waystation director Martine Colette said.
"They've been together for most of their lives, and obviously they had a successful marriage," she told Reuters.