COLCHESTER Zoo has been at the heart of families across Essex for decades, with children often growing up alongside their favourite animal.

So when news hits that an animal within the park has died, it can often feel like the passing of a beloved pet.

This week, the zoo announced its last lioness, Naja, had died after being euthanised following a short battle with illness.

But her death hasn't been the only one to break Colchester hearts.

We have compiled some of the more recent heartbreaking stories of much-missed animals who have sadly died at the zoo.

Rajang the Orangutan

Gazette: Picture: Scott DaveyPicture: Scott Davey

Iconic orangutan, Rajang was put to sleep on December 12, 2018 having suffered from chronic arthritis and other health complications.

Zoo bosses made the difficult decision to end his pain, 38 years after Rajang, 50, arrived at the Maldon Road attraction.

Billy-Joe the Chimpanzee

Gazette: Picture: Scott DaveyPicture: Scott Davey

One of Colchester Zoo's most long-standing residents, Billy-Joe died on March 1, 2018, after her keeper found there were limited treatments available to benefit her health.

Billy-Joe arrived at Colchester Zoo back in the late 1970s when she was just six years old and would regularly display atypical personality features which endeared her to staff and visitors alike.

Sadly, later in her life it appeared the chimp was suffering from deep vein thrombosis and had a blood clot blocking blood circulation to her foot.

After sustained efforts to help, it was decided there were limited treatments available which would benefit her health and the decision was finally taken to put her to sleep.

Igor the Amur Tiger

Gazette: Picture: Kim JohnstonPicture: Kim Johnston

Colchester Zoo said goodbye to the 16-year-old tiger when he had to be put to sleep following an operation.

Igor underwent surgery for a tumour on his head, but vets discovered it was inoperable and the heartbreaking decision to put him to sleep was made.

Yatsey the Eurasion Griffon Vulture


On February 4, 2018, Yatsey was free-flying during one of the zoo’s bird displays when he diverted from his usual path and landed on the netting above the lions’ enclosure.

One of the lionesses caught her, but zookeepers swiftly moved the lions inside to prevent them causing any further harm to the vulture.

Following an examination upon her retrieval, it was revealed Yatsey, 22, had sustained a puncture wound which zookeepers believed was treatable.

But, after going through the traumatic experience, she sadly died from shock while on her way to the vets.

Naja the Lioness


This week, Colchester Zoo 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, and the decision was taken to euthanise her.