Veterinarians from University of California, Davis diagnosed Monte with renal failure in March, said Carrie McMorris, animal care specialist with Micke Grove Zoo. By May, Monte, who always had a large appetite, couldn’t finish his meals, a sign his health was rapidly deteriorating.
Last week, he started resisting medication, which the veterinarians believed made him nauseous. So rather than letting Monte suffer, zookeepers decided to put him down.
“His quality of life was in question, and he wasn’t the same cat,” McMorris said.
Monte was found as a 2-month-old orphan cub in Carmel Valley in 1997. After coming to Micke Grove Zoo at 4 years old, visitors quickly grew attached to the large, light-brown cat.
Over the years, his tricks became his trademark.
“One thing that makes him stand out from other big cats is that his favorite toy was a coconut,” McMorris said. “That’s unusual. It’s not something they usually interact with.”
McMorris was Monte’s primary caregiver for the past two years.
“It’s hard to lose him,” she said. “He was the only big cat we had left. It’s like losing a member of your family.”
Lions in captivity typically live significantly longer than lions in the wild. In captivity, a lion can live up to 20 years, while in the wild their lifespan is about 10 years.
Zookeepers and visitors are still dealing with the loss of the zoo’s only lion.
The zoo has posted a card at his display that visitors can sign.
“He was a pretty good boy,” McMorris said. “He’ll definitely be missed.”
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.