It was health check-up time for our 16-year-old male lion Zulu recently. With the assistance of our specialist Carnivore keepers, our veterinary team was able to give him a full physical examination under general anaesthetic and take blood and urine samples for testing.  

From eyes, ears, legs, hips, paws, claws and more, the physical is extremely thorough! It’s also an absolute privilege for our skilled staff, whose roles enable them to experience the full magnificence of these big cats during procedures like this.

“Being able to assist with physical examinations of animals in our care is amazing and not something we ever take for granted,” says Carnivore keeper Bianca Hamilton who helped coordinate the logistics of Zulu’s procedure with our veterinary staff.

“To look into a lion’s eyes (that are three times bigger with sight eight times stronger than ours to help hunt prey!) and see the enormity, detail and perfection of their padded paws with their sharp retractable claws fills me with even more awe and respect for these cats.”

“On a practical level, being able to view an animal’s body condition so closely in this way is also very helpful. As keepers working with and observing these animals every day, we’re able to alert our veterinary team of any changes or issues we may see.” 

Zulu will be 17 years old in early March, which is elderly for these ‘Vulnerable’ big cats whose lives are considerably shorter in the wild, due to the threats and issues they face.

Senior vet An Pas says a pro-active health check-up like this now is really important as it gives both vets and the keepers vital baseline health information from which the can continue to monitor Zulu against.

At this stage, the results for Zulu from the tests able to be taken have shown nothing abnormal, so our vets and keepers have no immediate concerns for him. However, as an older animal, they’ll continue to monitor him closely.


Meet Auckland Zoo's lions!

Carnivore keeper Beth shows how we care for our two African lion brothers, Malik and Zulu