Kalliope | Photo courtesy EP Zoo

El Paso Zoo mourns death of Kalliope the Lioness

Tuesday afternoon, officials with the El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens announced the passing of their 13-year-old African lioness named Kalliope.

“Kalliope was beautiful, spunky, playful, mischievous, and brave,” said Amanda Leverett, the Collections Supervisor for the El Paso Zoo’s Africa section.

“She was the one who usually came up to the window for our educational lion encounter, always willing to share her beauty with everyone. It is so hard to say goodbye to animals we have had the honor of taking care of for so long. Being in a lion’s presence is a special and treasured experience that only few get to have. She will be dearly missed.”

Kalliope was diagnosed with a thymoma in December 2020 after a CT scan revealed the presence of a tumor in her chest. El Paso Zoo veterinary staff acted immediately and began to consider best care options, as they were concerned that the thymoma would continue to grow and impact her surrounding organs.

Staff weighed various treatment options and clinics nearby capable of treating Kalliope. She was ultimately transported to Phoenix, Arizona, in January 2021, to receive one dose of stereotactic radiation at Arizona Veterinary Oncology, with the hopes that it would reduce the thymoma’s size.

Though her initial return and recovery was successful, this month Kalliope began to have difficulty breathing. She was not interested in eating, and would quickly become tired.

This week, Kalliope passed away quietly in her sleep.

Kalliope first arrived at the El Paso Zoo in 2010 after she was born at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

“Caring for an aging animal collection is a double-edged sword,” said El Paso Zoo Director Joe Montisano. “We get to see and celebrate births and life from the beginning, but also have to deal with the circle of life and say goodbye to our aging friends when it is time. We do everything we can to provide them with the best care and companionship while they are in our care and that brings us solace, but it is also never easy when they pass.”

Kalliope’s sisters, Zari and Malaika, remain on exhibit, and await the addition of Hadari, a younger male African lion from the Pueblo Zoo in Pueblo, Colorado. He is due to arrive within the next few months.

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