FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Officials at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo said over the last week, African lioness Ina would often lay alongside Bill as his health deteriorated due to an aggressive form of cancer.
Ina will now roam alone in the tall grass of the lion exhibit in the African Journey.
Bill, the 10-year-old poster animal of the children’s zoo, was humanely euthanized Wednesday after veterinarians struggled to keep his quality of life up. A medical exam of Bill last week revealed the regal big cat had terminal cancer, and he spent his final days in the zoo’s behind-the-scenes yard.
As the zoo – and the community at large – mourns the loss of Bill, a zoo resident since 2008, officials are also working to match Ina with a new male African lion.
Bridget Pearson, a zoo spokeswoman, said Thursday that 9-year-old Ina will be on exhibit alone at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo when it opens April 23. Pearson said female lions can typically be alone in a habitat for some time and “do just fine.” She added: “We are confident that she will be OK.”
As a member of the Association of Zoos Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, though, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is actively working to ensure Ina is matched with a companion, Pearson said. She said the zoo has already connected with the lion Species Survival Plan coordinator so that plans can be made for Ina.
“At this point we know that we will find a companion for Ina, but we cannot yet say what that looks like,” said Pearson, adding that a new male companion could join Ina in Fort Wayne or she could join with a new male at another zoo.
In the case of the latter, Pearson said a new group of lions would come to Fort Wayne.
Either way, whether its bringing in other lions or transporting Ina out, the only cost the zoo will have is in transportation.
The zoo said best case scenario, it will have another lion or multiple lions on exhibit in two to three months, however, it could take a year.
With more questions than answers, the zoo is focused on mourning and celebrating the life of Bill, and caring for Ina.