Sahar, the former Lincoln Park Zoo lion who died unexpectedly last month while living at a Kansas zoo, suffered from encephalitis caused by a fungal infection, according to necropsy results made public Thursday.
The infection caused lesions in the African lion’s brain and a lung, which led to Sahar’s death overnight between Sept. 26 and Sept. 27. The infection could not be detected through a routine exam or by standard clinical tests performed by staff at Rolling Hills Zoo in central Kansas, where Sahar had been living since early June, the zoo said in a press release.
Zoo staff did not observe any outward signs of illness until the day prior to Sahar’s death, according to Rolling Hills Zoo.
The 9-year-old lion was born at the Bronx Zoo and moved to Lincoln Park Zoo in 2012, where he became a favorite among zoo staff and visitors.
With the zoo preparing to begin construction on a new $35 million lion habitat, Sahar and his 5-year-old female littermates, Kamali and Zalika, were transferred to Rolling Hills Zoo in Salinas, Kansas, about 180 miles west of Kansas City.
Since arriving at the Kansas zoo on June 5, Sahar could be seen looking out at visitors from an elevated perch on rocks within his exhibit, lounging in the shade or napping in the yard, according to Rolling Hills Zoo.
The fungus that infected Sahar is not considered to be contagious, and the zoo reported that Kamali and Zalika were doing well in the week following Sahar’s death.