Chadwick (right), the male African lion that lived at the Santa Barbara Zoo for 17 of his 21 years. | Credit: Paul Wellman/file photo

Chadwick, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s male African lion, was humanely euthanized Thursday morning after battling a degenerative illness, officials announced. 

“Chadwick has been dealing with health issues associated with his advancing age for several years,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, Vice President of Animal Care & Health. “Two weeks ago he developed lameness in his right forelimb, which rapidly progressed to generalized pain that we suspected was associated with spinal changes. He did not respond to multiple treatments for pain relief. Three days ago, we performed a CT scan, which confirmed our suspicion that he had progression of degenerative spinal disease, which is common in geriatric carnivores. Based on his deteriorating condition and his advanced age, the decision was made for humane euthanasia.”

The mean life expectancy for lions in captivity is 16.9 years. Chadwick was 21. He was born at the Indianapolis Zoo in 1998 and arrived in Santa Barbara in 2003. He shared his enclosure with female lion Gingerbread, with whom he sired two offspring ― Kiki and Docha ― during their 14 years together.

Chadwick (right), the male African lion that lived at the Santa Barbara Zoo for 17 of his 21 years.

“Chadwick lived a healthy, active life here at the Santa Barbara Zoo,” said CEO Rich Block. “He was well-loved by those who looked after him, and provided a meaningful connection to our guests as a representative for his vulnerable wild counterparts. He has been a part of the Zoo family for many years, and our staff and volunteers are grieving this significant loss.”

Plans for more lions to take up residence in the zoo’s Cats of Africa exhibit are in the works, and may involve a male-female pair. More details will be announced as they become available.


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