North Carolina Zoo male lion named Reilly dies at age of 23

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Wednesday, August 3, 2022
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One of the oldest lions in the world, who lived at the North Carolina Zoo, has died.

ASHEBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- One of the oldest lions in the world, who lived at the North Carolina Zoo, has died.

Reilly was 23 years old. He was born in Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and moved to North Carolina at the age of two.

In the wild, male lions rarely live past the age of 12 but in zoos it's not uncommon for them to make it into their late teens. Reilly was the oldest male lion at any Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited institution.

Reilly had been battling renal disease for several years. Finally the zoo's animal care team and veterinarians decided it was best for him to be euthanized.

"Reilly was a one-of-a-kind soul, and his morning roars will be greatly missed," said Zookeeper Beth Malott, who worked with Reilly for eight years.

Reilly's death means his lady lion Mekita is the only lion currently at North Carolina Zoo. The AZA will soon send recommendations to North Carolina Zoo about lions that would be good pride members and/or mates for Mekita

In his time at North Carolina Zoo, Reilly fathered three male and six female offspring.

"He was so tolerant of his rambunctious offspring and was fiercely devoted to his lady lion, Mekita," Malott recalled.