I was startled and sad to learn today of the death of Sahar, the nine-year-old male lion who lived at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. He died at the Rolling Hills Zoo west of Salina, Kansas, yesterday, where he was staying during the renovation of Lincoln Park's lion house.
I am not feeling sad because I think the lion was mistreated; I am confident that he was cared for well, and I believe that data from his life, as well as his death, will be used to help the lionesses Sahar lived with and their cousins in other zoos and in the wild.
I lived on Fullerton Parkway in Chicago for many years -- and enjoyed describing this as "the north edge of the zoo" or "just west of the polar bears." Walking to the zoo and "visiting the neighbors" was great fun, probably the best fun I ever had exercising. I might not enjoy the idea of a six-block walk each direction in many circumstances, but a trip back and forth to visit the lions? Count me in!
I loved Adelor, the previous leader of the lion pride at the zoo, and visited him more often than I was able to visit Sahar. I have moved away from my Fullerton apartment since Adelor's day. But a visit to Sahar was always a treat.
Some children I saw were irritated by the way the lions like to sleep, but I got some to understand how soothing it was to watch the sleepy animals.
Watching Sahar grow into his mane was fun, but also inspiring. The lessons in zoology and physiology help me apply what I see at the zoo to watching film of wild lions. I feel connected to animals in the wild when I can say to myself (or, OK, to the TV) "Yes, that's right, I have a neighbor like you" or "I know your cousins."
The lion sleeps. Goodbye, dear Sahar.
My condolences to your keepers.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
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