The 21-year-old couple was known for their strong bond and “frequent cuddles” and has long been beloved by visitors and staff.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the loss of our African lion pair,” Los Angeles Zoo officials wrote in a statement posted to their official Instagram account, noting that the move to “humanely euthanize” the couple was difficult.
“Hubert and Kalisa are an iconic part of the L.A. Zoo experience, and our staff and guests have been touched by their loyal companionship,” said zoo Director and CEO Denise Verret.
“Their longevity is truly a testament to the level of expert care our veterinary and animal care teams provide for our elderly animals,” she continued. “These lions will remain a positive part of our history, and they will be greatly missed.”
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It is with a heavy heart that we announce the loss of our African lion pair, Hubert and Kalisa. Animal care and health staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the 21-year-old lions today due to their declining health and age-related illnesses that had diminished their quality of life. “Hubert and Kalisa are an iconic part of the L.A. Zoo experience, and our staff and guests have been touched by their loyal companionship,” said CEO & Zoo Director Denise Verret. “These affectionate companions came to the L.A. Zoo six years ago, and they quickly charmed themselves into our hearts as we observed their magnificent beauty and unique bond. It was often said, you don’t see Kalisa without Hubert being close by. So, while it is truly heart-wrenching that we had to say goodbye to this iconic pair, we can take comfort in knowing they left together. These lions will remain a positive part of our history, and they will be greatly missed.” With an average life expectancy of mid-teens and about 17 years in Zoos, Hubert and Kalisa were considered elderly when they arrived at the L.A. Zoo in 2014 from the Woodland Park Zoo, where they had first bonded. They quickly became favorites among L.A. Zoo guests and staff and were known for their frequent cuddles and nuzzles. “I have to commend our animal care and veterinary staff for the great care they’ve given this pair, a couple who lived longer than most lions do in human care and the wild.” Please join us in honoring Hubert and Kalisa and their legacy by sharing some of your favorite memories of them here or by tagging LA Zoo.
Hubert was born Feb. 7, 1999, at the Lincoln Park Zoo and fathered 10 cubs throughout his lifetime. Kalisa was born Dec. 26 1998 at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
“These lions were charismatic both together as partners and separately, but they were hardly ever apart from one another,” L.A. Zoo animal programs director Beth Schaefer told the Los Angeles Times. “Their undivided attention was always on the other as they rested together, cuddled and nuzzled often.”
While the two never mated, they still managed to form an unbreakable bond after meeting one another after moving to the L.A. Zoo in 2014.
“This is a very hard loss for our zoo community,” mammal curator Alisa Behar said in a statement.
“In the early mornings, staff would routinely hear Hubert’s waking roars, and I will personally miss hearing them on my walks around the grounds,” she added. “You cannot think of Hubert without thinking of his companion, Kalisa; they’ve been an inseparable couple for years.”
The pair arrived at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens at the age of 17 – an old age because the majestic big cats typically only live 10 to 15 years in the wild, and are considered to be quite advanced in age when they are 17 or older.
The African Lion is currently classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. While the famed “king of the beasts” most likely doesn’t face an imminent risk of extinction in the near-term, there are believed to be only 25,000 individual lions living in the wild throughout Africa, and three quarters of the lions’ populations are in decline.
Lion populations have increased by 12 percent in the southern African countries Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. However, across West, Central, and East Africa, lion populations have plummeted by 60 percent – meaning that while African lions’ Red List status is still “Vulnerable” on a continent-wide level, the lion meets the criterion for “Endangered” across most of its range.