A Tribute to Shombay: A Handsome Lion

Reid Park Zoo is sad to say goodbye to Shombay the African lion. Shombay, who was nearly 12 years old, was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 2016.

While there is no cure for this disease, Reid Park Zoo’s animal care team had been managing Shombay’s condition by supporting his kidneys. Shombay was trained by his Zoo Keepers to line up along a training wall where veterinary staff could administer subcutaneous fluids in his rear hip. These treatments helped mitigate Shombay’s underlying health issue, but could not stop his kidney disease from continuing to progress.

“Losing Shombay is particularly difficult for our team,” Dr. Sue Tygielski, Director of Zoo Operations, said. “Our animal care and veterinary teams worked so hard to encourage him to participate in training sessions to help save his life. When he received these additional fluids, he would act more energetic. The team could see clear evidence of how their skills and dedication helped Shombay. They are all proud to have worked with him and our Zoo is so lucky to have such dedicated staff.”

Shombay’s recent blood tests showed a decline in kidney function and he was not participating in fluid sessions. These factors combined contributed to the Zoo’s decision to humanely euthanize him on Wednesday morning.

Shombay came to the Zoo in 2010 and was immediately adored by guests and Zoo staff alike. When he first arrived, he was two years old and his mane was mohawk shaped as it slowly grew in. Throughout his entire life, Shombay was a very cautious lion, always taking his time before investigating new spaces. Longtime Zoo guests may remember Shombay (and his mohawk mane) peeking over the top of logs in his habitat as he surveyed his surroundings.

Shombay moved to the Zoo to be a companion for the female lion, Kaya. Together, the two had several litters of cubs. While most of the cubs have joined lion prides at other zoos, their six-year-old daughter Nayo lives with Kaya at Reid Park Zoo. Shombay was always a patient father to his cubs, who often played on him and used him as a jungle gym. In more recent years he could often be seen on the Zoo’s webcam lounging around the habitat with Nayo and Kaya.

Kaya and Nayo will receive extra attention from their care team in the coming days. “We expect their behaviors to be different in the near future as they adapt to life without Shombay,” Animal Care Supervisor Rebecca Edwards said. “Our team will do all we can to make the transition as easy as possible.”