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'Fiercely devoted' lion at NC Zoo dies

Reilly, a 23-year-old African lion at the North Carolina Zoo who'd been battling renal disease for several years, died, officials said.

ASHEBORO, N.C. — A 23-year-old African lion who'd been battling renal disease for several years died this week, officials with the North Carolina Zoo said. 

Reilly was the oldest male lion in an Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited institution. Zoo officials said his advanced age and weakened physical state were factors behind the difficult decision to euthanize Reilly. 

Reilly was described as a "fiercely devoted" father to his cubs and lioness, Mekita. 

"Reilly was a one-of-a-kind soul, and his morning roads will be greatly missed," zookeeper Beth Malott said. 

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Dr. Jb Minter said renal disease isn't uncommon for a cat of Reilly's age, whether it's a big cat such as an African lion or your typical domestic cat. 

Credit: North Carolina Zoo

"We had been extremely fortunate to be able to monitor the advancement of Reilly's renal disease over the years using operant conditioning to get blood from his tail, but unfortunately, the progression of the renal disease along with his previously undiagnosed spinal disease proved to be too much," Minter said. 

Reilly was born at the Lincoln Park Zoo on Feb. 7, 1999. He arrived at the North Carolina Zoo in March of 2001. He fathered a total of nine offspring, including three males. With his passing, Mekita is now the only African lion at the North Carolina Zoo. 

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