Little Rock Zoo announces death of 14-year-old lion


The Little Rock Zoo is sad to announce the passing of its male lion, Bakari, who died December 1.

Bakari was 14-years-old and one of three members of the lion pride living at the Little Rock Zoo. He will be greatly missed by Zoo staff and guests.

Bakari was being treated for a variety of medical issues since the summer. In the last few days, he was having difficulty eating and drinking. Zoo veterinary staff performed an examination and
discovered a large mass behind his esophagus. After the examination, Bakari failed to recover from anesthesia. Necropsy results showed suspected metastatic cancer in his spleen and lungs.

A part of the lion pride at the Zoo for twelve years, Bakari came to the Little Rock Zoo from the Pueblo Zoo in Pueblo, Colorado in 2008 when he was just 2-years-old.

At his current age of 14-years-old, Bakari was nearing the median life expectancy of 16.9 years for lions living in a zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. He will be missed by his female companions, Saphira and Inara.

One of his keepers, Maggie Quinn Raglin, shared, “There are so many funny or sweet moments but most are hard to get across. To most he was a quiet and stoic observer on exhibit but to his
keeper pride he was a goofy guy. He loved to do [what we called] yoga stretches! Whether first thing or at the end of the day, he would roll around and stretch his back legs over his head. He would always check to make sure he had an audience before continuing his stretches.” Raglin added, “He was such a big part of our team and he will be deeply missed.”

When remembered by another one of his keepers, Kate Neal said, “Bakari arrived in Little Rock just after his second birthday [which was] my first year as a keeper. I have had the privilege of watching him grow from that awkward adolescent into a handsome and self-assured adult. He was always attached to keeper staff and was very interactive with us… [often] rubbing his head on the mesh to greet us.

Neal also shared, “I have worked with him essentially my entire career; he was a very special lion and his loss is more than I can articulate.” Neal further commented on his personality by saying, “He would roll around on his back and grab his back feet like he was in a yoga pose trying to get our attention in the morning or when the weather was so nice outside and he just wasn’t ready to come in yet.”

Zoo Director Susan Altrui says she still fondly remembers the day that Bakari arrived at the Little Rock Zoo. “Bakari still had some of his cub spots and this barely grown mane when he arrived at the Zoo more than a decade ago. He was full of spunk and instantly won us over,” said Altrui.