B’ham Zoo: Tranquilizers weren’t an option in lion attack

Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 10:20 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - We’re getting new insight into the lion that attacked and killed a lion at the Birmingham Zoo.

We’re On Your Side asking Birmingham Zoo leaders how the situation was handled and whether they could have done anything else to prevent it.

The African lioness, Akili, was fatally injured during introductions to a male lion, Josh. Zoo staff moved quickly to get the two lions separated. The veterinarians came down, but Akili did not survive her injuries, according to Hollie Colahan, the zoo’s deputy director.

We asked Colahan why they didn’t use tranquilizers. She says there’s a misconception among the public that tranquilizers work instantly. She says it’s a slow process. Colahan tells us they never want to dart animals if they are with another animal because they can become even more compromised.

Colahan says animal introductions are always risky because wild animals can be unpredictable, and staff can’t control their interactions.

“Had we tried to dart both of them, one would have been difficult in terms of how they were moving around but they could have sort of gone to sleep at different paces and if one was still awake and the other asleep then they are very vulnerable so unfortunately it’s not a tool that we can use in this situation,” Colahan said.

Zoo leaders feel like they’ve lost a family member with the tragic death of Akili, who has been at the zoo since 2007. She gave birth to five cubs in captivity in 2011. She’s well known and loved by a lot of people.


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