FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo poster animal, Bill the Lion, has died, a week after being diagnosed with rapidly spreading cancer.
The zoo said the 10-year-old African lion was humanely euthanized Wednesday after veterinarians struggled to keep his quality of life up. Bill spent his final days in the zoo’s behind-the-scenes yard, with female lioness Ina often laying beside him, zoo officials said.
“Our staff’s excellent care has given Bill a great quality of life here, and he in turn has enriched the quality of the lives of all of us and the entire Fort Wayne community,” said Dr. Joe Smith, director of animal programs at the zoo.
Last week, the zoo announced that a medical exam of Bill revealed he had lumps consistent with cancer. Dr. Joe Smith, director of animal programs at the zoo, told NewsChannel 15 later that Bill could live two days or two months.
The zoo said lions typically life into their late teens to early 20s; they said Bill’s death was the equivalent to a human dying in their 40s.
Zoo leaders said they became concerned after Bill had a bloody nose in the fall of 2015. They said zoo keepers also recorded inconsistencies with Bill’s appetite.
In response, keepers monitored Bills eating patterns, weight, and overall health daily.
Bill was immobilized in February by the zoo’s veterinary team for a medical exam, and afterward, his condition initially improved, but then regressed, the zoo said.
The cancerous lumps were discovered in late March during a second medical exam.
Since he was diagnosed, the zoo said it had received an outpouring of support from the community.
“Our mission is connecting kids and animals, strengthening families, and inspiring people to care. Bill has helped us to serve that mission in every aspect,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson. “Since the announcement of Bill’s health condition, the zoo has received an overwhelming outpouring of love, sympathy, and support from the community. Numerous guests have shared family pictures with Bill, and even sent cards to our staff. It has helped to raise our spirits during this difficult time.”
Bill arrived at the children’s zoo in December 2008. He quickly became a guest favorite along side Ina, the pair the unquestioned top residents of the zoo’s rehabilitated African Journey section. Since Bill’s arrival, 4.4 million guests have visited the zoo.
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo encouraged the community to mail cards, photos or accounts of memories of Bill to the zoo at 3411 Sherman Blvd., Fort Wayne, IN 46808. Memories and comments can also be shared on the zoo’s Facebook page.