Visitors voice their concern over skinny lions at Joburg Zoo

The Rosebank Killarney Gazette reported last week Johannesburg Zoo and City Parks spokesperson, Jenny Moodley explained that one of the lions, Letaba, a young male white lion was donated to the zoo about two-and-a-half years ago.

She added that white lions carry a recessive gene which gives them their appearance. “Unfortunately through the practice of inbreeding, many people are trying to exploit this gene to get more of the white lions. This, however, leads to these lions often carrying genetic defects. Letaba shows deformation in his spine but he has been given numerous health checks and receives ongoing care by the zoo staff.

Besides his physical appearance, Letaba is in excellent health, with a great appetite,” said Moodley.

Dr. Kresen Pillay an associate veterinarian, said, “Letaba shows scoliosis and kyphosis deformation of his spine but he has had several health checks to assess the degree of deformation as well as to get benchmark radiographs so that [the vets] can monitor him over his lifespan and he also receives ongoing care by the zoo staff.

“He has a great appetite and is fed one-and-a-half times more food than the equivalent aged male lion. He has been assessed for pain and discomfort and has not shown any signs of this. He is currently on joint supplements and daily monitoring,” added Pillay.

According to Moodley, the other lion which was seen as being underweight lost his mate recently. However, she said he is being monitored and will receive a new mate in due course and new enrichment activities to get him back to his happy self.

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) Arno de Klerk, the national inspector for its Wildlife Protection Unit, said the NSPCA is completely opposed to the keeping of wild animals in captivity. They believe that wild animals should not be used for entertainment and not be on display. Wild animals belong in the wild.

“An animal’s behavior can change for various reasons. If an animal loses a mate it may lead to it not wanting to eat. Any bad behavior in animals must be replaced with another positive behavior,” explained De Klerk, who added that the NSPCA had been informed by the zoo about the male lion that has been diagnosed with scoliosis and kyphosis of the spine.

“The matter was investigated by the NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit and vet reports have been provided. We will continue to monitor the animal’s progress and ensure that it does not suffer unnecessarily. It is preferred that when an animal suffers from a disease, notice boards must be placed on the enclosure to inform visitors of the animal’s condition,” he concluded.

The zoo has put up notices informing the public of the animal’s condition.

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