COLCHESTER Zoo has announced the death of its lioness after a short battle with illness.

The zoo’s animal care and veterinary teams took the difficult decision to euthanise Naja at the impressive age of 18 following the “rapid deterioration” of her health.

Naja underwent a full veterinary examination which included blood sampling, x-rays and an ultrasound after the animal care team noticed the lioness hadn’t been herself for a few days.

The devastating results of the diagnostic tests identified she had severe heart disease and a possible thrombosis.


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Having responded well to treatment by the following day, 24 hours later her health had started to deteriorate again.

Despite further treatment being administered, Naja, who arrived at the zoo in 2010, was not responding to her medication and was unable to stablise.

Therefore, the difficult decision was made and Naja was put to sleep, the zoo stated, meaning it now has just one male lion left.

The zoo’s carnivore team leader, Emma said: “Naja was truly one of a kind. Her personality and character set her aside from any other animal we’ve had the pleasure to work with.

“Naja had a gentle side where she would interact with her keepers but very quickly changed when food was available.


“It never gets any easier losing an animal you’ve cared for and Naja will be sorely missed by the team. Our main priority now is to make sure Bailey adjusts to life on his own.”

Naja leaves behind the zoo’s male lion, Bailey, who was Naja’s cousin and formerly lived with her sister, Malika, who died in 2020.

A zoo spokesman added: “All three lions had a strong bond, with the bond between Bailey and Naja made even stronger with the loss of Malika.

“Naja arrived at Colchester Zoo in 2010, along with Bailey and Malika, and since became a firm favourite amongst visitors with many photographers capturing her spirit on camera.

“It’s always hard losing one our animals and it’s even harder when that animal has become a big personality within the Colchester Zoo family.”