DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – CBS 11 News has learned new details about the investigation into the death of a lioness at the Dallas Zoo.
The story has people asking questions, but it will be up to zoo officials to answer those questions.
As it stands, no state or federal agency is expected to investigate the incident, because the death didn’t involve an endangered species, a crime, or a communicable disease.
At an animal sanctuary north of Dallas, though has a lot of interest in finding out what happened.
Things were different at the In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Educational Center when the African lion named Khan first met his companion, Sheila. Their keepers said they took things slowly. “We had one hour supervised dates for 30 days, then we let them spend the day together,” explained In-Sync founder Vicky Keahey.
Now, staff at In-Sync can hardly imagine the two apart. “They’re like husband and wife. I mean that’s what we call them – the old married couple.”
Social lions — who live together in groups called prides — hunt together, play together, and event protect each other. That’s why the killing of the 5-year-old lioness named Johari caught animal experts by surprise.
Dr. Craig Packer with the University of Minnesota said, “That’s a very odd thing to do to a member of your own family, particularly in lions.”
The Dallas Zoo is investigating the attack.
A necropsy or animal autopsy found that Johari suffocated, after her trachea collapsed. The examination also determined the lioness was in perfect health until her death.
Zoo officials are now interested in learning more about Johari’s behavior before the attack by a lion in her own pride.
“They have virtually been together everyday for the last three-and-a-half years,” said Dallas Zoo vice president of animal operations Dr. Lynn Kramer. “We see some scuffles and some rough play every once in a while but nothing that escalates like this.”
At In-Sync, Keahey likens the mystery to that of humans killing humans. “It’s not normal, but it happens,” she said. “It was really, really sad. It’s a tragedy.”
In-Sync Exotics suffered losses recently with the deaths of seven big cats. All of them died from distemper.
The Dallas Zoo, meanwhile, had its two remaining lionesses on display Monday. Officials say they aren’t sure when the male lions will return the exhibit.
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